'They understand it:' With fall sports canceled due to pandemic, UWM asks student-athletes to sign pledge

UW-Milwaukee Panthers basketball practice

Having sports to participate in or cheer for is very much a part of the college experience on many campuses. At UW-Milwaukee, administrators hope that student-athletes will do their part to bring about a return to competition.

In response to COVID-19, there will be no fall sports competitions for the Panthers -- or any of the Horizon League's 12 members. However, there are still fall sports student-athletes. UWM is asking all of its Panthers to sign a pledge with purpose.

"It seems pretty well-received, they understand it, and because nobody wants to be where we were in March, sent home and unable to be around one another," said Amanda Braun, UWM athletic director. "The implications for safety are pretty serious, and they seem to be taking it seriously, which is wonderful."

Of course, there was no March Madness for college basketball in 2020. Then, spring sports were lost as well. Panthers baseball coach Scott Doffek could only dream of playing at the team's new facility.

UWM Baseball Coach Scott Doffek

Universities have learned a lot in the ensuing months, and they are paying attention to what is happening around the country. Braun is involving student-athletes with the goal of getting back to being able to compete.

"It's a pledge to one another to be a good teammate, to be a Panther. This is what we are asking of them," Braun said. "Certainly, if we have student-athletes that are coming and blatantly doing things that are putting others in danger, there will be implications for that.

"You know, we haven't spelled out exactly...there's no if then that, but we want them to know that we are serious about it and there doesn't seem to be any issue. It's not a whole lot different than the other things we ask of them."

Every student-athlete at UWM is now fighting for playing time.

Colleges around the country are grappling with how to keep athletes -- as well as the student body at large -- safe. On Thursday, Aug. 20, Purdue University suspended 36 students for partying and violations of the "Protect Purdue Pledge."