Incoming college freshmen athletes facing pandemic uncertainty

College Sports

EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – For the high school graduating class of 2020, much has already been lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of things were messed up so I’m kind of worried that this isn’t going to get better and we won’t be able to go our first semester,” said former El Dorado quarterback Christopher Bustillos, who will play college football at McMurry University in Abilene.

The spring worries of high school seniors have become the summer time concerns of incoming college freshmen. For El Paso athletes getting ready to play at the next level, they’re cautiously preparing to leave home.

“I’m already registered for classes, I have my dorm and roommate, but it’s just a waiting game,” said Gabe Herrera, the former Parkland quarterback who will be heading to Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. “My report date is august 11 but it’s still up in the air.”

For University of Dallas signee Marcus Juarez, who starred on the basketball court for Clint, it’s the basic wishes all incoming freshmen should be afforded, but are uncertain because of the pandemic.

“I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to start my freshman year and be able to go with the year and complete it. I want to be able to actually go to school and enjoy my college life,” said Juarez.

Colleges and universities around the nation have their own rules and regulations with regards to bringing students back to campus in the fall. Many are planning a hybrid online and in-person set-up, including UTEP.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good student-to-professor ratio,” said Myles Ward, a Chapin graduate preparing to play Division I football at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. “That way, more kids can learn and we can be in a safer environment within the campus.”

Some local athletes are still waiting to head to school, while others have already arrived and are preparing for voluntary workouts. Former Coronado Thunderbird, turned University of Idaho Vandal, Jake Cox, arrived in Moscow, Idaho, earlier this week.

“We got here and you have to be quarantined for five days. After those five days, you get tested. Workouts are one guy to a rack, everyone has to have a mask on,” said Cox.

Athletes are taught from day one to prepare for all possibilities and some have stopped to consider what would be the ultimate disappointment: The cancellation of the fall sports season.

“You just see the numbers and you get the questions in your head, like dang, what if we don’t have the season? What if we’re put on hold until 2021?” asked Herrera.

His longtime friend Ward agreed.

“I’m very concerned whether I’ll get to play or have a freshman season like other traditional NCAA athletes have had,” said.

Every athlete that spoke to KTSM expressed similar worries. They were also all adamant that they want to see their universities have a concrete plan, and their teams implement strict COVID-19 safety policies.

Right now, it’s all a waiting game.

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