The field and the stands are empty at Jim Wacker Field on an overcast day. Shot taken from the south endzone.

Texas State Athletics Approach COVID-19 Head-On

By Sean Anchondo
Guest Sports Writer

“The Texas State Bobcats are ‘Nola bound,” ESPN plus play-by-play commentator Brant Freeman said as he signed off the broadcast following Texas State’s victory over Appalachian State. The Bobcats advanced in the Sun Belt tournament and were slated to play against South Alabama in the semifinals in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

The finale of the season was shaping up to be a storybook ending for Nijal Pearson, the all-time leading scorer for Texas State. What looked to be a dream-like scenario, quickly turned into a nightmarish and bizarre situation. The NCAA cancelled the tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We didn’t think at first it was going to be this big of a deal,” Pearson said. “I was more focused on March and getting locked in. I didn’t realize how serious this was.”

This year’s NBA draft is going to be a major obstacle for players like Pearson. As of now, camps and workouts will not be happening and players like Pearson who come from non-traditional basketball schools are going to struggle to get the attention of NBA teams.

“I signed an agent about a week ago. Basically, what I am hearing is the draft process is still on. No workouts are currently happening. Everything is zoom videos interviews,” Pearson said. “Those are mostly for the guys that are already being looked at highly on the draft boards. People like me are missing out on things like that.”

The outbreak of COVID-19 has rocked the sports world to say the least. The NBA and MLB suspended their leagues, smaller schools like St. Edwards have had to cut some of their sports programs and the NFL draft is going to be conducted in a virtual format for the first time ever. 

Athletes at Texas State are tasked to handle dealing with preparing for the upcoming season or are preparing to play at the professional level during a time when a lot of resources are not available due to the pandemic. 

Former Texas State quarterback Shaun Rutherford helps train athletes in the central Texas area including athletes preparing for the draft.

“It’s a pretty bad deal for them. I know I just talked to Hutch (White), they actually cancelled the Texas State Pro Day. So, he couldn’t get in front of scouts like he wanted to,” Rutherford said. “It’s hard for the guys that were going to go undrafted or are on the cusp. I hope this thing blows over in the front end of the summer around mid-May or early June so these guys get an opportunity to get in front of these scouts and get a chance to get into camp this year.”

Jake Spavital and the Texas State football team are taking the obstacles in stride. Although no one knows for sure what is going to happen with the upcoming season, Coach Spavital is confident the season will happen even if it has to be postponed. 

“I have been on phone calls with the NCAA all day. The consensus is they have a plan to have a 12- game regular season on time. They also have where it can be bumped back two weeks,” Spavital said. “There is a ton of conversation. A lot is unknown. It’s too early to tell.”

Since then, Spavital has had a lot of time to focus on recruiting and making sure his players are maintaining good health and strong study habits with shoolwork. Players have been in contact with their strength and conditioning coaches through a private Facebook group. In this group, players post workouts and check-up on each other’s well-being. 

The utilization of technology and social media have been key so far for Coach Spavital and his team. Since recruits and coaches cannot have face-to-face meetings, the coaching staff has also been using direct messages on Twitter to contact players to build relationships.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the sporting world into uncharted waters. Even with the world of sports being put on hold for the moment, student athletes and coaches alike are approaching this situation head-on. 

Coach Spavital has been able to use this time to spend more time with his kids while working from home. Nijal Pearson who recently became a father is utilizing this time to spend with his daughter.

“She is amazing. I love her so much,” Pearson said. “She is the easiest baby to watch. She has not made quarantine life difficult at all.”

A nightmarish scenario that no one thought would ever happen to sports has helped many people adapt and adjust. It has helped add perspective on life. Things are not always as bad as they seem.

Featured image by Garrett Martin.

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