Futures disrupted for student-athletes at Minot State
For many people in the athletic department, the Spring 2020 semester was supposed to be the beginning of a successful season. In March, all that changed when both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) canceled their championship seasons due to the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, many student-athletes lost that season of competition and for some, their last season of college sports for good. The abrupt end of the spring season left many people questioning and wondering what the rest of the year would look like and if fall sports would be able to have a season when they returned to school in August.
“Initially, we were quite shocked. We had students competing on the road and coaches out recruiting,” said Andy Carter, director of athletics. “We had to call everyone back to campus. It was a sad day, but it was necessary based on what we were being told.”
Unfortunately, due to how COVID-19 spreads, both NCAA and NSIC decided once again to cancel their championship seasons for the Fall 2020 semester. This has left many in the athletic department questioning if they will be able to do sports in the spring and if they will be able to maintain their athletic scholarships in the future.
For Carter, the top priority was working out a plan for the student-athletes who lost what would have been their senior year of competition and hopefully giving them a second chance for a final season.
“It was quite simple. We quickly decided that we would honor any scholarship for seniors (from last spring) who lost their season and wanted to return to compete in their last season. It was the right thing to do,” Carter said.
Despite their objectives being simple, Carter stated that there were still many tough decisions the department had to make due to the process of information slowly coming from both NCAA and NSIC, who were also making decisions on how to proceed with the athletic year.
“The most difficult part was not being able to communicate effectively to our students from March through the end of July. There were many hours of discussion with NCAA and NSIC officials but no decisions,” said Carter. “As I look back on that timeframe, I wish I could have communicated more with them.”
Now that the fall semester has started and sports have been canceled through December, Carter and others in the department are working hard to plan in case another unexpected event takes place within the following months.
“If we have another year of a senior class not playing and they wish to return for the following year, it will create a decision point for the department. If the senior class stays another year on athletic scholarship, do we recruit as many new students? Do we do both and attempt to increase external revenue to offset? I do not have those answers yet, but we will do our very best to determine what is best for our students and make that work.”
Carter also added that sports teams are going to see a lot of financial uncertainties due to the cancelations.
“There are, however, some harsh realities to the loss of revenues we have experienced from our inability to have contests,” Carter said. “We need revenue from tickets, booster memberships, concessions, and apparel, all which generally happen from playing contests. This will lead to some tough decisions, but not likely regarding scholarships.”
Despite all the uncertainties of the future for athletics, both financially and sports-wise, Carter wanted to make it clear that student-athlete scholarships were not going to be affected due to the coronavirus.
“No student-athlete has had their athletic scholarship affected by anything related to COVID-19,” Carter said. “As a matter of fact, we have made it possible for student-athletes to opt-out of participation for this year if their decision is based on reasons related to COVID-19. They keep their athletic aid and have zero responsibility for team activities. It is highly unlikely that any student-athlete would lose their scholarship from anything related to COVID-19.”