Student Athletes Could Miss Scholarship Opportunities Due To COVID-19

CHICAGO (CBS) — As thousands of high school athletes in Illinois sit out this season there is also a monetary cost of three major fall sports — football, boys soccer and girls volleyball — being sidelined.

If they thought there was some blackjack luck to being the class of ’21, seniors in high school are folding that notion, particularly those whose further education hinged on showcasing their fall talents to recruits as access to scholarship money is slipping away.

“I couldn’t play volleyball last fall because Chicago was on strike,” said Lizabeth Barajas, a senior at Solorio Academy High School in Chicago.

And it happened again this year.

“Because the state governor doesn’t allow us to because of COVID,” said Lizabeth. “I’m here advocating for low income students because they’re out there working and doing their jobs and helping provide for their families because they’re not allowed to get that scholarship that would’ve allowed them to continue their education.”

Nationally $3.6 billion in athletic scholarships is awarded each year, according to the NCAA. While there are no exact numbers for how many of those dollars Illinois athletes landed last year, if that money was distributed by population, Illinois would get about 4% of it, or $144 million in scholarships.

“We don’t have another way to pay for college,” said Lizabeth.

A large amount of that money is supposed to go to the big three fall sports. Those athletes have lost their showcase and, in many cases, access to those dollars.

“There’s a lot of rich communities where, ‘I can’t play in school? OK, I’ll go play in my club. I’ll go do this. I’ll do that. People in our community, we can’t do that. We cannot afford that.”

“We’ll get there when the doctors say it’s safe,” Gov. JB Pritzker said.

As he waits for a green light from doctors, athletes anxious to get back on the field are hoping the courts may speed it along as word of a lawsuit is expected any time.

“I really hope it happens,” said Lizabeth. “I really hope my voice matters.”

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