The football team of Morehouse College has returned to the field after the coronavirus pandemic caused the school to cancel the program, New York Times reports. The renowned HBCU was the first school that offered scholarships to cancel the 2020 Fall sports season.
At Forbes Arena, Morehouse’s football coach, Rich Freeman, recalled how much the world has changed since the school’s put a halt to all athletic programs.
“It’s been a major adjustment period for us,” Freeman said.
In an attempt to develop camaraderie, the team returned for spring practice back in February, strictly adhering to the CDC guidelines with health restrictions in place. Taking every precaution, players were tested for the virus twice a week during the summer, and coaches divided players into groups, spreading them out in multiple rooms because the entire team could not gather indoors for team meetings.
After a year of no football, the team was excited to get back to the gridiron.
“A lot of guys were losing their minds, and I understood where they were coming from,” quarterback Mike Sims said.
Sims expressed his disappointment in the decision to cancel the season but understood that remaining safe during the pandemic was a top priority of the school's administration.
“Of course, kids, we’re not really trying to hear that,” Sims said. “Of course, we’re just itching to play, but sometimes it’s a situation, especially like COVID, it’s bigger than just having fun.”
Because of the impact of the pandemic on college sports, the N.C.A.A. granted all fall sports athletes an extra year of eligibility. Also, Morehouse pledged that every athlete on its football team would retain their scholarship. According to Freeman, this decision helped to ease the tension that was present among players and their parents.
“That eased the blow a lot,” Freeman said. “We were able to refocus our energy to, ‘Hey, look, you got an extra year to boost that G.P.A., to try to see if you could do some things to help you in terms of internships, with your careers after you matriculate off the campus. That was the silver lining. We had a few guys that were able to do some things to better position themselves when they graduate.”
Although the team is 0-5 and showing the effects of missing an entire season, the coaching staff, players, student body, and alumni are all excited that football is back.
"It looks like we’re going to be 0-5 right now, but it still is something good. I think the people need this,” said Tim Turner, a Morehouse graduate. “They need to be around each other. That isolation over the last year, it couldn’t have been easy for these kids.”