As college sports around the country began to cancel games and tournaments, student-athletes face a sobering reality: for most of the upperclassmen, their careers have ended prematurely thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. With winter sports only reaching their post-seasons this month, the loss of games and eligibility hits especially hard for them.
The New York Times published a report on Saturday detailing only a handful of the athletes who will face the end of their careers and, in many cases, the curtailing of professional opportunities in their sports. Basketball players who were hoping to use March Madness to impress pro teams, whether in the NBA, WNBA, or abroad, will not get that chance, while athletes in smaller winter sports such as rifle or wrestling might struggle to find their place at the next level.
For many, the loss of their final games hit harder than for others who have made peace with the end of their collegiate careers. Utah State guard Sam Merrill’s final shot before the cancellations was a buzzer-beater to propel his team to the Mountain West conference championship crown, which earned the Aggies a spot in the soon-to-be cancelled NCAA men’s tournament. More than anything, he seems to begrudge the lack of opportunity for his team to make waves in the tourney, though at least he is content with how his career ended:
Especially now that we learned that it was our last game, as hard as it is, you couldn’t ask for a better way to go out.
There is a spot of good news, though: The NCAA signaled on Friday that it might allow players in spring sports — such as baseball, softball, golf, and track — to retain a year of eligibility; most of those seasons had only just begun when the stoppage of play occurred this week. There has been no external communication from the NCAA about winter sports, however.
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