We are probably in one of the toughest years ever for senior high school athletes to sign and continue their careers in college.
As a result of the COVID pandemic, those who are already playing college sports received an extra year of eligibility. That means fewer roster spots are available for the current high school senior class.
Thinking about the 2020 high school football season in Coahoma County, that is a shame. Both Clarksdale High School and Lee Academy had rosters filled with seniors. However, on National Signing Day Wednesday, Feb. 3, just three seniors from Coahoma County signed.
Clarksdale High School offensive lineman Almetris Smith and wide receiver Josh Hollins will be playing for Coahoma Community College and linebacker De’meric Strong signed with Northwest Mississippi Community College.
The Wildcats had 23 seniors, but just three were able to sign because so few spots were available.
On the positive side, Smith, Hollins and Strong showed how special they are as athletes and individuals. For them to be able to sign in a pandemic-filled school year is no small feat.
Congratulations to all three Wildcats!
Smith, Hollins and Strong all showed their character off the field by having the presence of mind to realize many of their deserving teammates may have been left out. They are trying to help some of those classmates sign.
Smith and Hollins both said they have spoken with the CCC coaches about the possibility of offering Wildcats defensive end and defensive tackle Vincent Sims a spot on next year’s team. Strong spoke with his coaches about Northwest Mississippi Community College offering Wildcats running back Sammie Ray a roster spot in the fall.
We will see if Sims, Ray and other Wildcats are able to play college football at some level next season.
While he has not officially signed, Wildcats senior defensive tackle Elbert Hines publicly announced he would be playing for Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, Ark.
The first baseball commitment from the current senior class in Coahoma County was announced recently.
Lee Academy shortstop and pitcher Graydon Gullick announced he would be playing for Mississippi Delta Community College next season. Gullick is expected to officially sign any day.
With all of the local talent we have right here in our own backyard, we should have more seniors playing football, baseball and basketball at the college level next season.
I understand why the 2020-21 school year should not count against a college athlete’s eligibility.
Just look at the CCC football season. The Tigers played five games and went 3-2 under first-year coach Travis Macon.
There are several problems with not playing more games.
One, there is less film for each athlete to show coaches at the next level.
Two, playing fewer games means each athlete does not have the same preparation to advance to higher competition.
Three, whatever level an athlete is playing at – junior college all the way to Division 1 – that is an experience he or she should enjoy. Having an abbreviated season takes away some of the enjoyment.
So what is the solution? How can we create more opportunities for high school seniors to play college sports during the pandemic and not take away current college athletes’ eligibility at the same time?
My answer is to temporarily increase the amount of spots allowed on a college roster. It depends on the sport as well as the level of college athletics. Some schools have four years of eligibility while JUCO schools such as CCC have two years of eligibility.
Whatever the situation may be, college sports teams should be permitted to have more athletes on the roster. Then current athletes and incoming freshmen would not be penalized for a problem they could not control.
I am not saying things would be perfect.
A larger roster means more athletes would be fighting for playing time. But if someone did not see as much action, it would be because he or she did not earn it.
As things stand, high school seniors are being penalized not for being incapable, rather because there are simply not as many spots available for the 2021-22 school year.
The COVID pandemic will not last forever. Hopefully, the vaccine to prevent COVID will be available to everyone sooner than later.
There will be a new normal, but right now, we are dealing with extraordinary circumstances. That means we must take extraordinary measures for the good of our kids.