There will be no champions crowned across Division I athletics for months to come.
The NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships due to the “evolving COVID-19 public health threat” in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
Evolving is the perfect word as just hours prior, conference tournament games were being held in front of fans — despite warnings from health officials — for bids to the 2020 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, one of the largest sporting events in the world. It includes 68 teams, captivates the country and is held across a slew of states. It’s so big that the Final Four is held in football stadiums instead of basketball arenas to allow more fans to attend.
Now, it won’t happen. Basketball is far from the only sport affected by the NCAA’s unprecedented announcement. March Madness was scheduled to begin Tuesday, and the College World Series, held in June, has also been canceled.
Many universities and leagues had suspended play until March 30, which was already affecting dozens of games at the University of Florida alone. Now, those suspended regular seasons are up in the air with nothing to play for at the end of the tunnel.
Every major professional sports league has elected to suspend its season over the past 24 hours. The NCAA was the last organization to do so, but it went a step further with outright cancellation.
Playing without fans in attendance was considered an initial solution, as many government officials had ordered hard caps on large groups, and it seemed teams were preparing for that reality. But NCAA President Mark Emmert deemed even reduced crowds (and the travel that would inevitably be required for such large events) too high of a risk.
The Gators were projected to play in the Men’s NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season and had an SEC Tournament game scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
What was considered by some one of the most volatile college men’s basketball seasons in recent history will be left without closure as concern over the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) sidelines all sports for the foreseeable future