High school athletes fear shorter seasons, less college recruiting over coronavirus concerns this fall

Seven states will not play high school football in the fall

Douglas Ferguson is a rising senior at Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz, Texas. He's also a defensive tackle and middle linebacker for the school's football team, although he's not sure what his final season is going to look like thanks to the coronavirus.

"Right now, we’re not allowed to compete, you can get with the team and do team workouts and strength and conditioning," Ferguson said. "It’s still a worry on my mind, everything in the news is saying it’s only gonna get worse before it gets better and I’m worried about having a senior season."

Texas is one of a just a few states that are allowing a football season to go forward, albeit delayed. But other states like California are having their fall and winter sports seasons start in January.

Michigan is moving forward on time with its "low-risk" sports like golf, tennis and swimming, with little to no physical contact. Football and volleyball — in the "high-risk" category — can begin practice, but not competition yet.

These moves come as multiple school districts announce remote learning going into the fall academic season because of the pandemic.

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According to the National Association of High School Sports Associations, eight states and the District of Columbia won't have football programs this year and almost 30 states have had to delay the start of the fall athletic schedules due to the virus with some swapping seasons with less-contact-based spring sports.

"Even for these schools that might not start out the year in the classroom, we feel comfortable doing things athletically with them," said Geoff Kimmerly, a spokesperson for the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).

For high school athletes, especially those who want to play in college, their futures are uncertain and opportunities limited as school administrators delay sports seasons and college coaches have their recruiting budgets slashed.

"If we move a season to the spring, we might lose some of our elite players, because they might have already enrolled in college, we want to see them complete their high school careers," Kimmerly added.

Coaches on the college-side have been negatively impacted as well.

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"COVID-19 is definitely impacting recruiting. First, kids just haven’t been playing in the normal capacity, lots of seasons were cut short. ... A lot of the camps, tournaments, recruiting events were cancelled and so athletes didn’t have the ability to play like they normally would," said Lisa Strassman, president of Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), a recruiting network for college athletes.

Ferguson says he's been recruited to play at two different colleges already, but isn't sure if more opportunities will come into play. Many athletes have had to rely on digital recruiting sessions to highlight their talent using last season's highlight reels to college coaches and via Zoom calls.

In an already competitive field, the pandemic has created a smaller window of opportunity for many. Strassman says over 280 college programs have been cut, leaving stranded athletes looking for a second home, and limiting the amount of roster spots available for those high school players looking for their college team.

"There's more competition for available roster spots than in years previous," said Strassman.

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For Ferguson, he says his mom gets sentimental about his football, especially it being his last season. He told Fox News he and his mom were recently reading an email from his coach about the new season's schedule, and his mom started crying, worried it might be cancelled.

"I still have college," Ferguson told his mother.