(Espn) – The NCAA has called off its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments as part of a complete cancellation of all remaining spring and winter championships.
“This 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,” the NCAA said in a statement Thursday.
The announcement puts an abrupt end to a basketball season that had less than a month to go before champions were to be crowned.
The men’s basketball tournament has been played every year since 1939, when Oregon won the championship in Evanston, Illinois. It has grown through the years, both in size and stature. The three-week tournament generates almost a billion dollars in revenue each year for the NCAA and its hundreds of member universities and colleges.
Thursday’s decision by the NCAA follows the cancellation of 15 men’s basketball conference tournaments earlier in the day and announcements by the ACC, Big Ten and other leagues suspending all athletic-related activity until further notice.
On Wednesday, the NCAA had announced the games that were scheduled to start next week would be played but in mostly empty arenas. That plan was scrapped as major American sports leagues, including the NBA, NHL and MLB, put the brakes on their seasons due to concerns about the pandemic.
“This is a difficult time with so many conflicting emotions,” Dawn Staley, coach of the No. 1-ranked South Carolina women’s basketball team, said in a statement. “First and foremost, we have to recognize how important it is to do the right thing for our community. Sports is a big part of our lives, but just one part of how we are connected to each other. We need to step back and think about the larger good served by canceling events that put people at risk.
“As competitors, we are certainly disappointed that we will not have the opportunity to contend for a second National Championship. That said, it will not diminish the way we look at our season, how we value our body of work over the last four months. We have measured ourselves against the best in the country over that time, and will embrace and relish that accomplishment.”
Among the championships that were also canceled are hockey, softball, baseball and lacrosse. The decision to cancel baseball and softball drew a sharp response from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
“Surprised that we’ve made a decision now in mid-March to not play baseball or softball national championship events [scheduled for June]. So I look forward to learning what informed that decision. I know what’s informed our decisions over the last day and a half or so, but the news from the NCAA we were waiting on — on the basketball tournaments and some of the championships happening now — but obviously, there was the decision to go further,” Sankey said on The Paul Finebaum Show.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.