Krisitina Inouye woke up the morning of her 22nd birthday in no mood to celebrate. She had just found out that the NCAA had all of her games, ending her senior year short due to the coronavirus.
Last season, Inouye had helped lead Stanford to their first regional appearance in six years and has started all of her 181 games in her career as a Cardinal. Now she spends the rest of her senior spring quarantined to her backyard.
“At first, I was very stuck in a loop of wondering ‘why me?’ – no senior or any athlete really would ever guess that their year or season would end with a global pandemic,” Inouye said.
The NCAA counsel made the announcement on March 12 that it was cancelling the rest of the season for spring sports and then on April 1 they announced that they will grant an extra season of eligibility to all spring-sport athletes whose seasons were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The sports that have been cancelled are: Baseball, lacrosse, golf, softball, rowing, outdoor track and field, women’s water polo, men’s volleyball and beach volleyball. This includes around 300,000 athletes according to the NCAA.The winter athletes will not be allowed to claim extra eligibility.
Stanford released a statement that they are in full support of the NCAA’s decision. “We are continuing to evaluate both the academic and fiscal impact this landmark decision will have on our varsity programs, support areas and overall department moving forward in this rapidly changing landscape,” Tyler Geivett, Assistant Director of Communications for Stanford Athletics said.
Seniors have three options if they choose to continue their collegiate career: enroll in another undergraduate program, begin graduate school, or transfer to another school. But for some, they have already made plans to move on.
“I’m one of the lucky ones since I’m doing my Masters next year at Stanford,” Inouye said. Prior to the pandemic, she was planning her Masters year as a copihttps://soundcloud.com/spencer-wirkkala/kristina-inouye-stanford-softballng mechanism for the fact that her collegiate career was coming to an end. Now she has to find a way to rework the possibility of playing again in the 2021 season into her new schedule.
“The one (and maybe only) great thing about quarantine is that I have plenty of time to think about all of it,” Inouye said.
The lines remain blurry however for some seniors since the NCAA council has left it up to each university to determine how much scholarship aid to offer athletes who were in what would have been their final season of eligibility.
Some of her counterparts on Stanford’s baseball team have decided to continue to enter the MLB draft rather than return to school. However the MLB has shortened this year’s drafts from 40 rounds to as few as five so many seniors might have found themselves forced to cut short.
Athletic directors surveyed by LEAD1 said their greatest concerns about their athletes over the next three months were academic progress, mental health and a lack of resources for them while off campus. The NCAA released an open letter to student-athletes on March 27. They started the hashtag #UnitedAsOne to reiterate the following: We see you. We appreciate you. We are you. You matter.
Many universities have been under financial stress. They have been budgeting for their incoming freshman class and many don’t have money left for those seniors who wish to return back to their team.
“With high school softball on hold, it’s hard to be able to refine my pitching (and feel ready) before playing in the PAC-12 in the spring,” Regan Krause, an incoming freshman on scholarship for Stanford in Spring 2021, who is trying to keep up her skills while in quarantine. Krause just recovered from a stress fracture in her heel, but has not been able to play a game in over 9 months.
Some universities, such as Iowa State, have announced a one-year, temporary pay reduction for coaches and certain staff to save more than $3 million. Some schools are also looking into suspending bonuses for coaches for a year to save another $1 million, according to a survey conducted by LEAD1.
“I have heard from so many of my peers who have said I wish we could do something like that at our school but I could never get everyone to buy into it. I have shared those messages with our staff because we are very fortunate to have coaches and staff here that realize we are in this together,” Jamie Pollard the athletic director at Iowa State said.
The NCAA said they will ease scholarship restrictions in order to help in the meantime.
“You can’t make sense of everything in life, especially a deadly virus,” Inouye said. “We are all in this together.”