His colleague Dr. James Nataro, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Virginia, a pediatric infectious disease expert who studies emerging infections, said the university, which had students on campus and held courses in person during the fall, generally did well. "Despite almost every prediction, the students met the requirements, the students were just wonderful," he said.
The school is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which has changed its schedule to include more conference games, said Dr. Nataro, and the spectators were kept to a minimum. Still, he said, when watching soccer games it was clear that "there were many opportunities to broadcast," and some of the good results may have been a matter of luck. And although he loves football himself, he worries about "the lesson he gets when people turn on the television and see all these guys standing next to each other without masks – that picture is not lost."
Some of the schools that have canceled or shortened their sports season are those that do not make any significant income from television games.
Dr. Thomas McLarney, the medical director of Davison Health Center at Wesleyan University, a Division III school, said that for fall sports that involve close contact – soccer, lacrosse, soccer – the teams practiced their skills and worked on them, but they played not against other teams and "didn't even scratch with himself".
In sports such as tennis, where strict distancing is possible, Wesleyan's athletes would have the option to play – sometimes wearing masks when playing outside. For swimmers, the changing room has been removed from the equation; Students changed in their dormitories and then dried off as best they could when they got out of the pool before returning to their rooms to change (it helped that it was a relatively warm autumn).
"I thought our plan was very good," said Dr. McLarney, but of course the plan was only good if the students followed it. "Our students were extremely compliant, I give these people so much credit," he said, adding that he was annoyed coming home and turning on the evening news only to see stories about students taking risks.
Student athletes, said Dr. McLarney, "were hungry to be with other athletes, and we felt we could offer that to some extent – they'd rather mingle with other teams, but they understood it was a pandemic. " Wesleyan is a member of the New England Small College Athletic Coalition, which decided in October to cancel winter sports due to pandemic issues.
"It's hard," said Dr. Dean. "We didn't learn anything about it in medical school."