Chance Williams | Staff Writer
For close to 20 months, the sports world has undergone unprecedented changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspensions of professional sports leagues in early 2020 began a long period of uncharted territory for athletes, including those at Hampton University.
On March 11, 2020, the National Basketball Association suspended its 2019-2020 season. After a hiatus that lasted longer than the average NBA offseason, Commissioner Adam Silver formulated a plan to resume play. The remainder of the 2019-2020 season was played in the Walt Disney World Resort, located in Orlando, Florida.
The NBA spent approximately $180 million to hold games. League revenue dropped 10 percent to $8.3 billion due to the pandemic, according to Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Besides the 10 percent drop in revenue, there was a $400 million loss in merchandise and sponsorships, according to Lowe and Wojnarowski.
In addition to professional sports leagues, the NCAA also has been affected by the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, the NCAA announced that the remaining men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be canceled. This led to the NCAA falling victim to a $600 million decline in its total revenue, according to Jenna West of Sports Illustrated.
The NCAA was supposed to receive more than $800 million from CBS and Turner for the 2020 NCAA Tournament, according to West. However, the entity only received $113.1 million.
The effects of COVID-19 on the NCAA have been seen on a business level and a personal level.
During the 2020-2021 basketball season, the Hampton University women’s basketball team faced tough challenges.
“We were all thrown into [the season],” HU point guard Tori Davis said. “There were a lot of freshmen and transfers, and we didn’t know each other. We were learning not only what our coach wanted but also how each other played,”
HU forward Nas Nigatu echoed Davis.
“We had nine new players,” Nigatu said. “We had under a week to prepare for our first game, which wasn’t an easy thing to do because we had to learn a new system.”
Having a sports season start with only one week to prepare is a recipe for complications that extend further than having to learn a new system.
“We hit the ball rolling, so we had a lot of injuries at first,” Nigatu said. “It was very hard… just coming in as a freshman into college that soon.”
In addition to typical injuries, COVID-19 also had a direct effect on the women’s basketball team.
“Our season had to end early [due to COVID-19 complications],” Nigatu said. “We had to quarantine for about three weeks.”
The Lady Pirates also missed the fans that attend games and fill the Convocation Center with energy.
“Not having the fans that fuel your energy… we were always in an empty gym and had to bring our own,” Nigatu said.” If we didn’t have that [energy], the gyms weren’t the best environments to play in.”
While it’s easy to look at the negatives, some good things came from the pandemic. A significant aspect of the positives that came from COVID-19 was the NCAA’s decision to grant an extra year of eligibility for its athletes. NCAA athletes all over the country, and at Hampton specifically, plan on taking full advantage of that.
“I was able to get a college experience without taking a year [of eligibility],” Davis said. “I’m coming in now as a freshman, technically, knowing the speed of the game, how it’s played, and how other people play. It was definitely a plus.”
College athletics and most other things have been returning to how they were before the pandemic started. This leads to increased excitement in athletes.
“Definitely having fans… it’s going to be great being able to see people that I know come to my games,” Davis said. “It’ll be nice to get hype from the crowds.”
Nigatu felt similarly.
“I’m excited to see our fans show up and support and to win… win, win, win, win.”
The Lady Pirates’ first home game will be Nov. 13 against the Richmond Spiders.