By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – There are times when exceptions should be made, like during a global pandemic, for example.
Call it bending the rules or whatever you’d like, but it just seems unfair and unreasonable to enforce during a global pandemic the same rules that make sense during normal times because very little makes sense during a global pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman wouldn’t have my sympathy and support after having opted out of the 2020 season in order to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Bateman announced on Aug. 4 that he was opting out and cited the uncertainty around health and safety as the primary reasons.
His decision made more sense a week later when on Aug. 11 the Big Ten Conference announced that the fall football season had been canceled due to concerns with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
There was very little incentive for Bateman to stay in college when it appeared there would be no fall season.
And as the Big Ten’s wide receiver of the year in 2019, Bateman figured to draw plenty of attention from NFL teams.
His future seemed pretty clear, but then the present started to change as rumors surfaced that the Big Ten was reconsidering its decision to cancel the football season.
Rumors then turned into reports and the Big Ten finally made it official by announcing on Sept. 16 that the season would be reinstated with a nine-game schedule, and would start on the weekend of Oct. 23-24.
Bateman had second thoughts about leaving for the NFL, and that’s understandable with the Big Ten now saying it is safe enough to play football under strict guidelines.
The Big Ten didn’t have access to daily antigen testing when it canceled the season in August, but it does now, along with a better understanding of the potential cardiac issues, namely myocarditis.
Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck confirmed in a statement that Bateman received a waiver to participate in practice, but would need another waiver to play in games during the fall season.
Fleck said Bateman now felt comfortable rejoining the team, and that should be enough for Bateman to be granted a waiver.
Bateman has re-enrolled in school and is practicing with the team, and waiting for a decision that should’ve been made much sooner.
Rules are enforced to maintain order and fairness, and to prevent corruption and cheating.
A world without rules is a world in chaos, and that includes sports.
But again, we’re in the midst of a life-changing global pandemic that nobody in the sports world saw coming.
If ever there was a time to bend the rules, or make exceptions, this is the time.
There has been so much pain and suffering caused by the pandemic, so why add to it by keeping athletes from participating based on rules that were to be enforced under normal circumstances?
The case of Iowa recruit Arland Bruce IV also makes little sense under the circumstances.
Under normal conditions, I’d say without hesitation that Bruce shouldn’t be allowed to play for Ankeny High School this fall after having moved this summer from his home in Olathe, Kan., just so he could play football.
But again, we’re in the grips of a global pandemic, and the only reason Bruce transferred to Ankeny in late August is because his home county in Kansas voted to postpone the fall football season due to the area’s high volume of COVID-19 cases.
Bruce and his mother were told on Aug. 28 that Bruce did not meet the eligibility requirements to play football this fall.
Bruce appealed the decision and even had his landlord in Ankeny speak on his behalf, but was ruled ineligible for a second time.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association, according to a report in the Des Moines Register, is basing its eligibility decision on how it believes the Bruce family has dual residencies since Bruce’s two younger brothers still live with their legal guardian uncle in Olathe.
The judge who ruled in favor of the IHSAA also reportedly reasoned that Bruce wasn’t being irreparably harmed by not play playing because he already had a scholarship.
This ruling would make sense under normal circumstances because the last thing high school sports needs is for star players to transfer for reasons that are based only on winning and exposure.
Bruce, on the other hand, transferred in order to get away from a virus hot spot, and because he wanted to have a senior football season.
It shouldn’t matter that he already has a scholarship offer.
Only once does a kid get to play his senior season, and it just seems that an exception could be made in Bruce’s case.
It just seems the IHSAA is being too rigid and stubborn in Bruce’s case, especially since his mother moved with him to Ankeny.
And speaking of being too stubborn, it’s ridiculous that the three Iowa City high schools had to cancel three football games simply because their students were taking classes online rather than meeting the requirement of having at least 50 percent of the classes in person.
You’re telling me an exception couldn’t have been made in this case, or that both sides couldn’t have reached a compromise sooner than they just did?
These are strange and surreal times, and hopefully, something we’ll never experience again in our lifetime.
The last global pandemic to cause this much death and misery happened a century ago.
This is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event in which the rules are open for interpretation, and made to bend just a little.
It just seems unfair and counterproductive to punish kids whose only wish is to play the sport they love during a global pandemic, and to be safe.