The cancellation or suspension of the remainder of the professional and collegiate sports calendar for this season is now a real possibility.
At the center of the tumult is the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, set to begin next week. Late Wednesday, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships.
The NCAA statement reiterated that the decision “is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”
“My feeling the minute I read that one of [NBA] players tested positive, I thought that was the beginning of the end,” UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma told ESPN on Thursday. “How can we justify putting our players out there and having something happen to them? I don’t know that we want to be responsible for that. Because right now, every parent of every child wants them to play in the NCAA Tournament. Unless all of a sudden it’s their son or their daughter that somehow contracts this and then it’s somebody’s fault, you know in the world we live in.
“So there’s so many, so many, so many layers to this. And in the end, I truly believe they’re doing the right thing.”
The NCAA really had no choice. In the wake of the NBA’s decision on Wednesday to indefinitely suspend their season, the nation’s Power 5 collegiate leagues – the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 – all canceled their men’s basketball conference tournaments Thursday. They were quickly joined by the American, Atlantic 10, Conference USA, MAC, America East, Big Sky and WAC.
“We believe that it’s the right decision to make at this particular point in time,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said. “You can ask, ‘why was it not made sooner?’ It’s a fair question. The answer is that it’s an extraordinarily fluid situation with information coming to us that changes. I used to say by the week, then I say by the day, and now I say by the hour. So hopefully we’re doing the right thing in the context of this great country of ours and in the context of intercollegiate sports.”
The Big East was for a time the only holdout. It staged the first half of its opening-round game between Creighton and St. John’s before canceling its tournament at halftime.
That move put the future of the NCAA Tournaments for men’s and women’s basketball in grave danger. In addition, member schools such as Duke, Kansas and Rice announced independent of the NCAA that its athletic teams would not be competing for the remainder of the school year.
The Pac-12 announced all conference sporting events would be canceled until further notice. The Big 12 said its other conference championships were off through April 15. The SEC said it is suspending events on home campuses until March 30. The Ivy League canceled all of its spring sports.
Gonzaga men’s basketball coach Mark Few told ESPN on Wednesday many veteran Division I coaches had hoped the NCAA would only postpone the tournament in hopes of perhaps playing it later this spring. That desire was obviously ignored.
There was much more:
MLB decided Thursday to suspend Spring Training games and delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks. As of 4:00 p.m., Thursday all Spring Training games had been cancelled and the 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona has been postponed indefinitely.
MLB and its teams have been working on contingency plans regarding the regular season schedule. MLB said it will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible. MLB was scheduled to open its season on March 26.
The NHL suspended its season with 3 ½ weeks remaining.
“The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures,” the league said in a statement. “However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.
“We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions — including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.”
Elsewhere, the Association of Tennis Professionals has suspended its tour for six weeks.
In a news release on the ATP World Tour’s website, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said, “This is not a decision that was taken lightly and it represents a great loss for our tournaments, players, and fans worldwide. However we believe this is the responsible action needed at this time in order to protect the health and safety of our players, staff, the wider tennis community and general public health in the face of this global pandemic.”
Major League Soccer has suspended its season 30 days and the U.S. Soccer Federation has canceled scheduled friendlies.
MLS commissioner Don Garber added, “Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season – based on the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and other public health authorities, and in the best interest of our fans, players, officials and employees. We’d like to thank our fans for their continued support during this challenging time,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said.