An empty track and field at SF State. The university halted all sports team activities for the Fall 2020 semester due to the pandemic. (Dyanna Calvario / Golden Gate Xpress) (Dyanna Calvario)
An empty track and field at SF State. The university halted all sports team activities for the Fall 2020 semester due to the pandemic. (Dyanna Calvario / Golden Gate Xpress)

Dyanna Calvario

SF State athletics remain optimistic amid standstill

October 6, 2020

The SF State Athletics department, which has halted all sports team-activities for the Fall 2020 semester, is experiencing budget, spending and recruitment impacts in addition to the athletic impact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Associate Director of Athletics Brandon Davis said that like budgets across campus, the athletics department is impacted financially with enrollment down. 

“Our budget is also tied to student fees. So when enrollment drops, our budget drops,” Davis said.

According to a comparison of Fall enrollment from Sept. 22, 2019, and the end of Sept. 21, 2020, prepared by Institutional Analysis, the university has had a drop of 6.3% in total student enrollment during this timeframe.

I know a lot of students who weren’t able to visit their campus, or their potential campus. You know, you want to be able to get there and see [the campuses]. So a lot of people weren’t able to make their visits, student athletes and regular students alike.”

— Brandon Davis, Senior Associate Director of Athletics

When asked about potential layoffs in the department, Davis said the department “has been hit by personnel decisions,” but he did not disclose who has been affected specifically.

Davis also mentioned the possibility of additional spending required to ensure students’ safety when sports return. 

“If we have to put the acrylic shielding up, there’s going to be a cost associated with any of that type of protection and making everything safer, he said.” 

Recruitment of student athletes is another function of the athletics department impacted by the current circumstances.

“I know a lot of students who weren’t able to visit their campus, or their potential campus. You know, you want to be able to get there and see [the campuses]. So a lot of people weren’t able to make their visits, student athletes and regular students alike,” Davis said. 

He added that coaches have been required to rely on virtual recruitment and scouting because they were not allowed by the university to conduct scouting in person. 

He also said that the NCAA put regulations in place to standardize recruitment for NCAA programs.

“The other thing, obviously, is San Francisco isn’t the cheapest place to live. So right now, people are going to probably be discouraged to commit to San Francisco State not knowing when we’re gonna be back on campus because, you know, they don’t want to necessarily commit to that right now,” Davis said. 

Justin Wolfe, a sophomore on the men’s soccer team majoring in kinesiology, believes the SF State Athletics department can still recruit student athletes despite the uncertainty that they may feel now.

“I think what we have at State is so crucial and so important and just such a big thing that I think that there are definitely ways of getting athletes here, who want to play, who want to continue to play sports and get an education. And I think there’s still opportunities to get high level players, and just all around great students and great people,” Wolfe said. 

The athletics department also has scholarships that it gives out to students, but those have not experienced as much change as other facets of the department. According to Davis, many of the scholarships are endowed, meaning that they are donations made by certain people; those donations run through scholarship funds. 

“Right now, we’re fortunate in that we’re still giving those scholarships, we are honoring those scholarships for student athletes, whether they opt in or out. And then, you know, they can return next year,” Davis said. 

Several SF State teams planned to participate in Fall championships, but the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced on Aug. 5 that it would no longer host Division II Fall championships. SF State is in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, a Division II collegiate athletic conference of the NCAA.

The thought of losing a senior year sucks. I’m not gonna lie, but you know, it’s important to stay positive and you know, the world is going to keep spinning.”

— Peter Swinkels, student athlete

The men’s and women’s cross country teams, men’s and women’s soccer teams and men’s and women’s volleyball teams were anticipated to participate in CCAA championships this semester. Davis said that “no decision has been made yet on the basketball seasons or the wrestling seasons which are in winter.” 

“The three conferences that comprise the West region are all suspended. So nobody in the West region is playing — that’s Washington, Oregon, California, and then there’s some schools in Colorado and a few others around. So the whole West region is halted right now,” Davis said. 

Peter Swinkels is a student athlete at SF State whose season has been halted. Swinkels, goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team, is a senior majoring in Communications Studies. 

Swinkels hopes that the soccer championship season can be played in the Spring, as he hopes to graduate after this school year. 

“The thought of losing a senior year sucks. I’m not gonna lie, but you know, it’s important to stay positive and you know, the world is going to keep spinning. So I’ve got to just keep controlling what I can control,” Swinkels said. He added that he intends to pursue professional opportunities after his time at SF State.

“It’s important to note that the situations that we’re experiencing right now are not unique to San Francisco State,” Swinkels said, before adding that most other university athletic programs “have foregone competition in the fall.” 

Davis said there is a possibility that the cancelled fall sports could be played in the spring, but he did not provide a timetable for when sports could return to be played with fans in attendance. 

The athletics department is partnering closer with Student Affairs & Enrollment Management to unify the departments’ voices, according to Davis. 

“So I think that all kind of depends on the city, the county, state, and government regulations that are put in place,” Davis said. “As you know, those are changing every day, it seems like. So we’ll do our best to get everyone back in the gym when we can. But, you know, our priority is the safety and the health of the student athletes and the campus as a whole. You know, we don’t want to risk that for anybody. So we’ll do it when the time is right.”

The empty wrestling gym at the Don Nasser Family Plaza is seen through the window at SF State campus. The university halted all sports team activities for the Fall 2020 semester due to the pandemic. (Dyanna Calvario / Golden Gate Xpress) (Dyanna Calvario)
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