Jan. 21, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States. Feb. 19, first death reported in the United States. March 16, the University of Montevallo closes and spring break is extended. There are many reactions to the COVID-19 outbreak on Twitter and from students at Montevallo, but most of these reactions fall into three categories.
They are either about online classes, social distancing, or how the government and others are handling the pandemic. But there weren’t many reactions to how this was affecting athletics. Of course, athletics aren’t the top concern, and they shouldn’t be, but for the athletes at the University of Montevallo, they are an important concern.
Due to the pandemic, every spring sport ended early, as well as the rest of the season for any winter sports that were still playing. It affected every athlete differently: some were, for one reason or another, excited for it to end; others were devasted that they wouldn’t be able to finish their season.
When the Gulf South Conference (GSC) and the NCAA announced the official ending of our season, it was near chaos. Many athletes had different feelings about the ending, but in general, they all had questions about it. They wanted to know about eligibility; how this was going to affect standings, scholarships, and just in general what it meant for them. Most of these questions were answered promptly by coaches and the NCAA.
In terms of eligibility, the NCAA announced that all athletes would have an extra year of eligibility on top of their initial four years. On top of this, the NCAA extended the limit of 10 semesters of eligibility for seniors who wished to return. Typically, athletes are only eligible for 10 semesters to participate as a student-athlete. With the four-year limit of eligibility of competition, athletes are allowed to also compete with their team as a redshirt for a year. Redshirting means the athlete can be a part of the team without using a year of eligibility. As a redshirt, the athlete can practice with the team but not compete in games.
The announcement of an extra year of eligibility was great news for some, but in general, it wouldn’t have mattered.
“It’s a nice idea, but it isn’t feasible for many people financially or academically,” says Madelyn Watkins, a sophomore who runs for the Montevallo Cross Country and Track team. Watkins continues, “At a small school that isn’t fully funded, our scholarship is so small that you would most likely have to pay out of pocket for classes and housing.”
At a smaller school like ours, the extra year of eligibility does little for seniors who already have plans for grad school, or can’t afford to pay an extra year. But for those who do, the thought of another year to finish their season is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Dylan Witt, captain of the Men’s Lacrosse team, said, “Many players spend [the] majority of their time practicing and preparing for their season. It was sad to see it taken away from so many athletes who were having great seasons.”
With the extra year, many athletes now have a chance to finish what they started.
“[It] gives them an opportunity to make another mark and create new goals for themselves as well as with their teammates,” says Hannah Fortin, a player for the Women’s Lacrosse Team.
Many of the athletes at Montevallo were impacted differently. Seniors weren’t the only ones who had a lot at stake for their spring seasons. For some international students, their sport is one of the only ways they had contact with their teammates and friends at the school. When the spring season ended, and school closed, many of them had no choice but to return home with little time to say goodbye.
According to Jackson Neufeld, a player for the Men’s Lacrosse team and an international student, said, “Montevallo is somewhere I’m really proud to call home. It’s difficult to say goodbye to these people…[they] all hold a special place in my life, as well as each other.”