Many Olympics sports programs, such as track and field, swimming, and diving, are simply being cut, rather than suspended, by major Division I colleges during the pandemic, NBC News reported in October.
Stanford University, for example, discontinued 11 sports after the declaration of the pandemic, including women’s rowing, which has devastated many student-athletes, who now face decisions about how to continue their sports aspirations.
“This decision makes it much, much harder, especially as a college athlete, to have the resources to pursue elite athletics,” the network quoted Emily Molins, a lightweight rower with Olympic dreams, as saying. She has since decided to take a gap year.
By NBC’s count, 26 colleges and universities, from Stanford to Dartmouth College, have cut more than 90 sports programs, with tennis being the most frequently cut program at 22 colleges. The lives of some 1,500 student-athletes and hundreds of coaches have been affected.
The cuts are starting to trickle down into high school athletics, where changes to the college recruiting process are forcing students to take a different path to college—at least a little, according to an article by Darian Daniels in The Howler student newspaper at Wakefield High School in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Usually [student-athletes] have recruiting trips to see how everything works, but we haven’t been able to do that,” he quotes a senior on the swim team, who hasn’t picked a college yet, as saying. George Washington University is said to be one of her picks, and women’s swimming and diving hasn’t been eliminated there yet.
“It’s harder to connect with [recruiters], because you can’t really go to a school, but you can still email and go on Zoom with them,” she said of the changes in the recruiting process during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At Millbrook High School in the same city, one junior swimmer, who was hoping to continue her sport at the collegiate level, witnessed cuts to the swimming program at nearby East Carolina University this summer.
“Swimming being cut from so many schools has given me fewer options in the recruiting process and made it much more difficult for me,” reporter Michaela Teachey quoted her as saying in The Cat Talk student newspaper. “It also scares me how I could go through all of this and work so hard just to have my program cut in a few years.”
There’s still hope. ECU alumni have launched a fundraising campaign to keep the school’s swimming program alive. But as fundraising has proceeded, officials at the university in Greenville are arguing over whether the swim team and natatorium, which may not be up to NCAA Division I standards, are worth the investment.