The tidal wave of sports cancellations and suspensions that began Wednesday night with the suspension of the NBA season, following Utah Jazz star center Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus test result, continued to roll Thursday morning — ultimately resulting in the cancellation of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and uncertainty regarding spring college sports.
Thursday night, the Big Sky Conference announced it had suspended all “intercollegiate competition” for teams who participate in spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That suspension is until further notice, a statement said, with a reassessment coming “at a later date.”
Weber State University announced mid-day Thursday it would postpone classes from March 13-17, then pick up the spring semester with online-only instruction on March 18.
In that announcement, WSU said all campus events are canceled until March 30, except for NCAA sanctioned athletics — deferring to the Big Sky Conference for decisions on its spring athletics like softball, track and field, and golf. Ultimately, the Big Sky joined scores of other conferences in suspending or canceling spring sports — in addition to the NCAA canceling spring sports national championship events.
By press time Thursday night, WSU did not know what impacts the Big Sky’s suspension of spring competition had on football camp, which began March 10 and has logged two practices, with the third scheduled for Friday.
Other impacts will be felt for Weber State athletics. The university’s announcement also detailed a suspension on all international and domestic “university-sponsored travel” through April 20.
WSU athletic director Tim Crompton said his department will abide by the temporary university travel suspension, even as it pertains to things like recruiting travel.
Men’s basketball is currently in a full, live recruiting period through the end of March and for periods of time in April.
Such school policies, which will vary nationally, perhaps spurred the National Association of Basketball Coaches to propose that the NCAA suspend all in-person recruiting activity in men’s basketball.
“The NABC Board of Directors today calls for an indefinite suspension of all in-person recruiting activity in NCAA men’s basketball, including on-campus official and unofficial visits and off-campus recruiting trips by coaches,” the organization said in an online news release. “The NABC has reached out to NCAA officials to formally propose this moratorium.
“The Board believes this proactive measure is appropriate in order to minimize risk for coaches, prospective student-athletes and their families related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Board proposes that the suspension be in effect through the end of March, at which time the situation should be re-evaluated.”
Thursday morning picked up where Wednesday night’s rapid-fire news sequence left off with the report that Donovan Mitchell had also tested positive for COVID-19 — after the Jazz’s game in Oklahoma City was postponed moments before tip-off due to Gobert’s positive test. No other Jazz players, staff or traveling media have preliminarily tested positive, according to multiple reports.
At the same time Thursday morning, college conferences around the country grappled with the decision to continue or cancel their basketball tournaments, with some like the Big East putting players on the floor and others, like the ACC, allowing players to warm up for the morning’s first games.
Those conferences and more began to cancel their tournaments, with that wave finally reaching Boise, Idaho, where the Big Sky announced it had canceled the remainder of its basketball tournaments after holding a conference call with school presidents just over an hour before Eastern Washington and Sacramento State were scheduled to begin the men’s quarterfinals.
Since both tournaments were in progress, the Big Sky announced, per the conference handbook, that the top remaining seeds still playing are declared champions and receive auto-bids to NCAA Tournaments. The top teams still alive were both regular-season champions — EWU on the men’s side and Montana State on the women’s.
But within a couple more hours, that became moot. The NCAA announced at 2:15 p.m. MDT that it had canceled not only the upcoming national basketball tournaments, but all spring NCAA championship events as well.
Meanwhile, the Mountain West Conference, which hosts Utah State University sports, announced Thursday evening it had canceled all spring competitions and championships.
With a baseball game looming, Brigham Young University “indefinitely suspended” all athletic events Thursday evening, and the Pac-12 Conference, where University of Utah calls home, has suspended athletic activities.
Minor League Baseball announced Thursday it would delay the start of the 2020 season, scheduled to begin the second week of April. This is sure to affect the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees.
The Ogden Raptors, who play in the short-season Pioneer League, are not scheduled to begin their season until June 19, so any potential effects for that league cannot be determined now.