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Coronavirus’ Blow to College Sports Could Impact Team USA at Olympics

The pandemic has caused universities and colleges across the United States to cancel or postpone sports seasons. Some schools have cut college sports programs altogether, forcing college athletes aspiring to compete in the Olympics to reconsider their dreams.

Most of the cuts have taken place in programs that direct athletes to US Olympic teams, possibly impacting America’s participation in the international sporting event.

Colleges Cut Sport

The director of collegiate partnerships for the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Sarah Willhelmi, told NBC News that the college system is “an absolute lifeline for our Olympic development teams.”

The website for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCA) reinforces this idea, highlighting how over 80 percent of the US national team competed in college before gaining entry into the 2016 Summer Games.

However, many colleges released announcements detailing the postponement, downsizing, or cancellation of sports activities and programs.

For example, on July 8, Stanford University announced the discontinuation of 11 of its sports programs at the end of the 2020-21 academic year, including fencing, field hockey, synchronized swimming, and wrestling.

Two months later, on September 3, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, announced the “wrenching decision” to discontinue seven varsity sports after the 2020-21 academic year, impacting 118 student-athletes and 13 coaches.

On September 10, the list of college teams cut because of COVID-19 had surpassed 230, according to a tally by the Washington Post.

Funding Sports Programs

Alumni networks around the US are scrambling to save sports programs. Since the College of William & Mary’s announcement, student-athletes, their families, and alumni raised more than $1 million for the cut sports.

Dartmouth College’s swimming and diving teams also released a petition to raise awareness about their situation.

And a group of University of Iowa alumni, parents, and athletes developed a plan and raised $3 million to try to save the school’s four discontinued sports.

Sports and Social Distancing

The NCAA announced in August that it will “only support moving forward with fall championships and other postseason play if strict conditions are applied and adhered to.”

Each division must safeguard the well-being of their student-athletes, as well as their scholarships and eligibility, the NCAA said.