Since school started again back in August, most of our sports teams did not have the opportunity to compete for a championship. It is the case for baseball, basketball, soccer and track and field for example. All that was allowed for the Badgers’ were a few exhibition games with not much on the line: no rankings, no championship tournament… In brief, everything that is exciting about sports was taken away from our sports teams this past year, leaving many athletes “frustrated,” according to A.J. Fell, pitcher for the baseball team.
However, with the extensive vaccination campaign that is happening throughout the country, it is legitimate to believe that sports might have a chance to play a regular schedule starting next fall. Indeed, according to the athletic trainers on campus, getting a COVID-19 vaccine “could help us return to a more normal athletic year in August.” After over a year of practices and friendly games only, our teams might finally see the end of the tunnel and finally get a taste of true competition again.
Although it is still too early for the athletics institutions to pronounce an official plan to return to full schedule competition next fall, I think we can be pretty confident that it will happen for several reasons.
The first one is that, on campus, only 38 COVID-19 cases have been counted since Jan. 19 of this year, according to SHC.edu with only one of those cases detected in April. Those numbers clearly show that the number of cases on campus significantly drops which can only be positive regarding the return to competition for our sports teams in the fall.
Moreover, the intensive testing protocols athletes and other campus members have to go through make it very unlikely that a new cluster will develop on campus. Every athlete of every team has to be tested before and after every game, which highly reduces the chances of spreading the virus in case anyone in the team tests positive.
The last reason that pushes me to think that athletics teams will return to a full schedule competition next fall is the important number of people who are being vaccinated throughout the country. According to the CDC, over 85 million Americans were fully vaccinated on April 19 which is about 25% of the U.S. population.
Despite a return to full competition, I do not think sports will be back the way they used to be just yet. In other words, I think there will still be restrictions regarding the attendance of sporting events. For a bit longer, our athletes will have to deal with empty or partially filled stands.
Nonetheless, nothing sounds better than a return to true competition and I am convinced that the Badgers will be back to full action...and they will be back hungrier than ever.