Madness is not the only thing spreading through March

While weaning off throughout the country, COVID-19 still stunted the season of March Madness hopefuls and the safety of the tournament.

Opinion by Benjamin Royer, Staff Writer

While the number of infections continues to decrease, several college basketball players participating in March Madness are testing positive for COVID-19. (Graphic Illustration by Vickie Guzman/The Valley Star)

The health of student-athletes should have been the number one priority for the NCAA this March, but the gathering of teams for March Madness left some teams infected instead of in glee.

Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia are the two schools most affected. The University of Virginia Cavaliers had to drop out of their conference tournament because of an infection within their team. The Cavaliers flew into Indiana for March Madness one day before their game because of previous COVID-19 infections — they lost the next day. The Rams of VCU had a COVID-19 outbreak as they started early testing in Indiana for March Madness, therefore ending their season with a no-contest and a plane flight home.

“It was devastating. It was heartbreaking,” VCU Coach Mike Rhoades said in an article with the Associated Press. “No dry eyes. This is what you dream of as a college player and a coach. To get it taken away like this, it’s just a heartbreaking moment in their young lives. It just stinks. There’s no way I can sugarcoat it.”

Heartbreaking is the word that covers the pain these teams had to go through. There was an easy fix to this harrowing scenario: not to play sports in the middle of a pandemic.

Being in the pandemic for more than a year now, it is easy to see why distractions such as sports are desired. College basketball gave student-athletes and fans a much needed avoidance from life.

The women’s March Madness tournament is being played in Texas where there currently is not a mask-mandate in place. Indiana, where the men’s tournament is being played, has theirs expiring in two weeks.

These locations have not built confidence for the health and safety of the players that have traveled to play in March Madness. The addition of attendance to these games weakens the argument for sports as well.

There are not enough protocols to make sure that the people attending these games are completely healthy. No proof of vaccination and no proof of a negative test is needed to enter any of the three arenas. There is nothing to be done to make sure that these athletes stay safe besides social distancing between them and the fans.

“Our emphasis is on the safety and well-being of everyone participating in the event,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline in a press release before the tournament began.

Take their word for it, or not, but the safety of the players and staff are still at risk with two weeks to go in Indiana and Texas. Here is to hoping for complete safety.