Why this matters
Fall sports are an uncertainty for many colleges across the United States. Morehouse College president David Thomas shares why he made the decision to cancel fall sports and move all learning to an online platform.
When Morehouse College president David Thomas announced the cancellation of fall sports, he didn’t realize he was one of the first college presidents in the country to make such a difficult decision.
He says, “It wasn’t until I got on the first interview and the person interviewing me said, ‘You know, you’re the first scholarship school to make this decision.’ I said, ‘You got to be kidding me.’”
Due to changes in game locations and sponsorship management, this upcoming football season was going to be the first to produce revenue for the college. However, the risk that COVID-19 poses to student-athletes’ health is too dangerous for practices or competition.
“This COVID virus has created a crisis and one quality of crises is that you’re managing it in an extraordinarily uncertain environment,” Thomas says. “Any uncertainty you can take out, you should take out. One uncertainty I could take out was fall athletics.”
Following Morehouse’s announcement, several other colleges canceled their fall sports season to protect student-athletes’ health and safety. On July 20, Morehouse took it one step further and announced that they will close the campus and use remote learning for the fall semester.
Many students have expressed their disappointment, but Thomas says they are still understanding and supportive of this decision.
As an all-men’s HBCU, Morehouse is an incredibly unique school. “There’s a kind of brotherhood and specialness to this environment,” Thomas says. “This is the first environment they’ve been in where they feel safe to be who they are.”
The COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately threatened the health and safety of communities of color. It has exposed institutionalized racism and has shed a light on health disparities. Thomas states, “It has not been lost on me that our students by and large are from communities that have been disproportionately negatively impacted by COVID.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has also surged in the last few months in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Thomas believes that the student body at Morehouse has the power to eradicate the damaging narratives about Black men that have become entrenched in society.
He states, “We are a place where Black male excellence is an expectation, not an exception.”
Even without a fall sports season and in-person classes, Thomas is confident that Morehouse will continue to thrive. While this period will certainly be challenging, he sees it as a moment to self-correct, innovate, and improve not just the college, but society as a whole.
“This could be the breakthrough decade for our country,” Thomas says. “20-20 is perfect vision. This is 2020, so the only way you can’t see it perfectly is if you close your eyes to it. I think so much has been revealed that it is only a matter of are you willing to see it? And if you’re willing to see it, are you committed to doing something about it?”
Morehouse has already taken the initiative to uplift communities by offering courses to non-traditional students. Thomas believes that this will encourage the difficult but essential conversations needed to progress this country.
Thomas has also set an important precedent for other universities trying to form a plan for sports and education in the era of COVID-19. Revenue will come and go, but right now, students need a community that they can trust. They need leaders who care about them and who will do what they can to ensure their well being.
Thomas is one of these leaders.
COVID-19 is the rival no one in sport could game plan for. As many live events remain at a standstill and the world keeps adapting, how is sport resetting upon its staggered returns?