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Could College Sports Keep Athletes off Campus? SU Officials Say Preserve Total College Experience

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As Syracuse University and other schools consider starting college sports, the athletes’ academics and health are both concerns while the coronavirus is still a threat.  The SU athletics department is making the case for preserving as much of the on-campus experience as possible for the student athletes. 

The start of football, basketball and other team practices meant student athletes found themselves holed up with a few teammates, working out in small, isolated pods.  The measure, to stop COVID-19 infections.  Doctor Salatha Willis, SU’s Associate Athletics Director for Diversity, was concerned that if student athletes were too sequestered in the name of health, the educational experience could be harmed.

“It’s important to have the student experience.  Some of that experience comes through in-classroom experiences and some of it comes through co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences that occur on campus.”

He helped write a report, shared with conference and other college officials, who are all trying to figure out how to have college sports.  Some schools have considered having teams stay completely away from campus for health protection.  But Willis argues important parts of education – co-curricular and extra-curricular – are lost. 

“… having the opportunities to go to resource fairs, having the opportunities to join student organizations, having the opportunities to meet with professors one-on-one, inside the classroom or outside the classroom, maybe in an office hours capacity.”

He knows all colleges are increasing on-line offerings that could make it easier to separate athletes from campus.  The researchers suggest that the NCAA consider rules that would preserve the total college experience, while not giving some schools recruiting advantages through remote facilities. 

In New York, colleges are also facing sports with no fans, after an order from the Cuomo administration.  Willis says they’ll follow government guidance on best outcomes for students and the community.