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Should the NCAA grant instant eligibility to players transferring from coronavirus hotbeds?

In a year where the NCAA is far more willing to grant immediate eligibility waivers, this is, at the very least, something to consider.

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

I’m going to preface this article by saying the health and safety of humans across the world is of the utmost importance right now, and sports must take a backseat to those.

Personally, I don’t believe that, at this time, there should be college sports this fall. The coronavirus has already claimed far too many lives, and if college campuses are packed with kids this fall and winter, many more lives will be unnecessarily lost.

Alas, college sports make big money, so schools will do everything in their power to make fall and winter sports happen, including college basketball. Hopefully, they find a way to do so in a safe manner that prevents the virus from spreading and claiming more lives.

So, for now at least, the show goes on.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak sweeping across America, the NCAA has seemingly been more willing to grant immediate eligibility waivers to athletes transferring to new schools.

Part of that is many of these athletes who’ve changed schools were either moving closer to home (California native Johnny Juzang from Kentucky to UCLA), or had some kind of medical/mental health hardship (D.J. Carton from Ohio State to Marquette).

But one factor no one is talking about that should be considered is players transferring from coronavirus hotbed states to safer ones.

With the NCAA giving out more and more waivers this year, doesn’t it make sense to do so for players leaving states with 80-100K+ cases of the virus to ones with significantly fewer cases and risk of having major outbreaks?

One player the University of Kentucky is trying to get eligible for next season is men’s basketball center Olivier Sarr, who transferred in from Wake Forest over the summer. The primary reasons he left were:

1. His head coach, Danny Manning, was fired in late April, after Sarr was led to believe his job was safe.

2. Manning had convinced Sarr to not enter the NBA Draft, so when Manning was fired, Sarr felt deceived by the school, especially since Manning was fired the day before the deadline to enter the draft.

But should Sarr leaving a state with large number of coronavirus cases for one that has significantly less cases be part of his case to the NCAA for a waiver?

To this point, Kentucky has been one of the best states at combating the coronavirus. As of July 16th, Kentucky has had 20,677 cases, per the CDC. That’s obviously too big of a number for any state to have with a virus as deadly as this, but it is one of the lowest of any state in America.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for North Carolina, which is located on the Atlantic Coast, and most states with that claim have also been devastated by the virus. Pick a state with beaches, and you’ve almost certainly got a hotbed for the virus. That includes the Tar Heel State, which had 91,266 cases as of July 16th.

Things haven’t gotten any better recently, either. Over the last seven days, North Carolina has had 13,956 new cases compared to 2,758 for Kentucky.

Winston-Salem, where Wake Forest is, sits about four hours from popular beaches Emerald Isle, Bald Head Island, and Cape Hatteras, It’s only about three hours from Carolina Beach and Kure Beach (all of these were ranked among the top 14 beaches in North Carolina by US News).

Most beaches in North Carolina are within a six-hour drive to Wake Forest, so it’s pretty easy for the beach hotbeds to furiously spread the virus in and around Winston-Salem.

So, as bad as things have been in North Carolina, the potential for things to get even worse is there by simply being located on the coast, whereas Kentucky has been pretty consistent at being among the states with the fewest coronavirus cases, and it’s not on a coast.

And that’s not even accounting for the fact that, if things continue to get worse in hotbed states on the coast, schools within those states could get shut down and subsequently suspend sports seasons for college like Wake Forest.

Earlier this year, California, one of the biggest coronavirus hotbeds, announced that 23 state schools wouldn’t allow students onto campuses for the rest of 2020. If that happens, then there probably can’t be athletes on campus either, and thus, no sports for them (California has since relented on this and appears set to have athletes on campus this fall).

Is all of this actually a legitimate argument for the NCAA to grant instant eligibility to Sarr, as well as other athletes transferring from hotbed states to safer ones?

Personally, I don’t think it would be fair to the schools who just happen to be in hotbed states, but the NCAA seems to be giving out waivers for a lot less than this.

So for schools like UK trying to get a player eligible who just so happens to be coming from a state with significantly more cases of the virus, it’s at least worth bringing up in the waiver claim to the NCAA, but I’m not sure it alone should be why players get to skip the usual sit-out year that traditional transfers typically have.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.