With the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ruling in October to give all Division 1 sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, graduate students have been given the unique opportunity to continue their careers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“(Not a lot of students) have that opportunity to come back,” said Kent Weiser, Emporia State athletics director. “It often depends on if they are somebody who is having a great impact on the team and we’d love to have them back, for others it's more their decision if they want to continue coming.”
Weiser said cutting students from programs is always a tough decision.
"You hate to not provide opportunities to kids fresh out of high school because they haven’t done anything, they are trying to survive this like everyone else,” Weiser said. “Just because you are eligible doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to come back and continue that college career. So you may see some student athletes now who plan on coming back but hopefully life goes on... We certainly feel like we recruit good players and athletes so we want them to be around but there is always a time where their athletic career is going to end.”
Craig Doty, the head basketball coach at Emporia State, said students never really went home for break and have continued to train hard.
“Our guys went home for a few days, about seven days over Christmas break, but other than that they didnt go home for Thanksgiving or anything like that,” Doty said. “The NCAA requires that everyone in tier one, which would include everyone that travels to games, to have been tested one to three times per week to participate in these games.”
With free covid tests to students taking place the first two days of the semester an accurate account of covid in the student population remains to be made.
“We have had four stoppages in our program, some had nothing to do with our program since they just wanted surveillance of the entire school,” Doty said. "We are operating on a hyper cautious approach and that means if we have a guy with a runny nose we hold him off until his next testing. We want to go above and beyond because the symptoms of Covid in those of young athletes and those in the top one percent physically, sometimes their symptoms are very small so we have to be very protective.”
According to Doty, the basketball program runs it's testing and Covid procedures through resident doctor Ryan Lasota.
“(Every semester we) look forward,” Doty said. “Basketball is a tremendous vehicle to empower our community, to engage our fan base and our players and it comes down to becoming an active community member, a father, a husband. While basketball is fun and engaging and teaches a lot of lifelong lessons our focus should always be around academics.”