At Cal, Every Sport but Football Feels Like Second String

BERKELEY, Calif. — There may be greater than faculty soccer. At a spot just like the College of California, Berkeley, soccer is simply one among 30 sports activities these days on pause.

Soccer will get the eye, and the cash, which is why the %-12 Convention would possibly come to a decision, as early as this week, to jump-start its soccer groups after saying in August that every one sports activities have been postponed till January, no less than.

That call can have massive ramifications — for enthusiasts, for funds administrators, for the sign it sends about risk-reward calculations and priorities at best American public universities.

However in athletic departments, soccer is only a fraction of the worry. At Cal, there are 850 student-athletes. About 750 of them don’t play soccer.

Academically, Houghton is a senior who expects to graduate in May; as an athlete, she is a junior. Since the coming season will not count against eligibility, per the N.C.A.A., the fall 2021 season will be her junior season athletically.

Will she get into Cal’s graduate program so she can continue playing at Berkeley? Does she go to graduate school elsewhere, and play there? Or does she move on, leaving volleyball behind for good?

“I’m still figuring it out,” Houghton said, “but there are no guarantees I can be at Cal.”

But there are no schedules, no standardized protocols for travel, no plans for the kind of intersectional play that the N.C.A.A. uses to compare teams to determine postseason bids. What if Covid-19 cases spike this winter?

On the tennis courts, past the temperature testing station, was the men’s basketball team, looking a bit out of place under the warm September sun. Its season might start in late November. That is the latest plan, in a year when plans seem written by Etch A Sketch.

Normally, basketball is played and practiced in a gymnasium, amid the echo of voices, dribbles and shoe squeaks. But with indoor gyms, locker rooms and weight rooms off-limits because of health guidelines, the home of Cal basketball is the on-campus Hellman Tennis Complex.

Two courts are temporarily taped with basketball lines — for 3-pointers, free throws and out of bounds. At each end is a portable hoop, the type usually spotted in driveways. The tennis court is substantially shorter than a regulation basketball court. The women’s team sometimes practices a couple of tennis courts away.

The N.C.A.A. recently said that basketball games could start on Nov. 25. But specifics are unclear. Nonconference games? Travel? Fans?

Will Cal’s teams still be practicing on tennis courts in November?

Players and coaches see news reports and social media posts of other teams scrimmaging in gyms, as if everything were normal. Maybe it is a competitive advantage for those teams. Maybe it is one, unpredictably, for Cal.

“We’ve got to be thankful for the life we have,” Brown said. “I’d rather be someplace I feel safe.”

The horizontal jumpers, as long jumpers and triple jumpers are called, were back on the track on Monday, running sets of short sprints. A couple of throwers, hurling hammers and other heavy equipment, practiced nearby. Their grunts were punctuated by divot-popping thuds on the grass.

The coed sport of track and field is particularly complex to untangle because seasons and athletes blend. Most athletes compete in both the winter indoor season and the spring outdoor season. Distance runners also compete in cross-country in the fall.

Now cross-country is tentatively planned from Jan. 30 to March.

It all creates questions, small (should cross-country runners simultaneously compete indoors?) and large (can meets with dozens of schools and hundreds of athletes be conducted?).

Johnson is not convinced there will be an indoor season. The West Coast, with its mild climate, has few indoor tracks, meaning Cal would have to travel to meets with nonconference opponents.

Conferences will have to decide how comfortable they are mingling together. Athletic directors will have to decide if the expense is worth it, given the budget crises their departments face — including at Cal, where about half the $100 million in annual revenue comes from football. Epidemiologists project case numbers for the coronavirus could grow through the winter.

Now back in Berkeley, under quarantine, his roommate is Rogers, the women’s hammer throw champion from near Vancouver, British Columbia. Last spring, she hoped to successfully defend her N.C.A.A. title, then qualify for the Canadian team and compete in the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

When it became clear that all of her 2020 dreams had been erased, Rogers cried.

“I was upset, I was disappointed,” she said. “I remember talking to my coach and saying, ‘What happens now?’”

Instead of competing against the world’s best, Rogers was at home from March 11 until a few days ago. Now she hopes that 2020 was just a hiccup, and that 2021 brings the national championship and Olympic berth she expected this year.

“The first major change that I did was, instead of saying things got ‘canceled,’ saying things were ‘postponed,’” Rogers said. “Because it creates that mental assurance that, yes, things aren’t happening right now, but they will be.”

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