Razorback seasons potentially over after NCAA cancels championship events

By: Matt Jones
Published: Thursday, March 12, 2020
Arkansas center fielder Christian Franklin (center) is congratulated Tuesday, March 10, 2020, by right fielder Heston Kjerstad (right) and second baseman Robert Moore after Franklin threw out Grand Canyon designated hitter Dominic Grissom as Grissom attempted to advance from second to third on a ball hit to the outfield during the second inning at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas center fielder Christian Franklin (center) is congratulated Tuesday, March 10, 2020, by right fielder Heston Kjerstad (right) and second baseman Robert Moore after Franklin threw out Grand Canyon designated hitter Dominic Grissom as Grissom attempted to advance from second to third on a ball hit to the outfield during the second inning at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.

— The NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring sports championships Thursday, potentially ending every college sports season that had not yet concluded.

Among the known casualties: next week's men's and women's basketball tournaments, better known as March Madness, and the baseball College World Series.

Also canceled is the NCAA indoor track and field championships scheduled this week in Albuquerque, N.M., where the University of Arkansas had men's and women's teams on site to compete. Both teams won conference championships two weeks ago.

In a statement, the NCAA said its decision was based on a "public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the (covid-19) pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities."

Among the seasons to effectively come to an end: the Razorbacks' men's and women's basketball teams, with records of 20-12 and 24-8, respectively. The Arkansas women were primed to begin play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years, and the men defeated Vanderbilt on Wednesday at the SEC Tournament.

The men were scheduled to play South Carolina late Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn., before the tournament was canceled that morning. The team returned to Fayetteville on Thursday afternoon.

Also potentially over are the seasons for Arkansas baseball (11-5) and softball (18-6), both ranked in the top 25 of national polls. The baseball team was a preseason favorite to compete for a conference and national championship, and won its fourth consecutive game Wednesday with a 10-9 victory over Grand Canyon.

Arkansas' men's and women's golf teams, men's and women's tennis teams, gymnastics team and swimming and diving team are also in season, and the men's and women's outdoor track and field seasons were set to begin later this month.

Earlier Thursday, the SEC - which governs games on the UA campus - announced it would suspend all sporting events until at least March 30, at which time it would re-evaluate the virus and its impact on players and spectators on its campuses. Some SEC campuses, such as the UA, have canceled in-person classes and transitioned to alternative methods of instruction, such as online courses, for the duration of the spring semester.

While NCAA championships are canceled, organizations such as the SEC could elect to continue its regular seasons, although there were no indications Thursday that was what the league intended to do.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey expressed surprise about the baseball and softball championship cancellations during an appearance on SEC Network's Paul Finebaum Show.

"I’m a bit surprised that we’ve made a decision now in mid-March to not play baseball or softball national championship events," Sankey said, "so I look forward to learning what informed that decision."

There is no word on how the NCAA's decision Thursday will affect the Arkansas football team's spring practice season that was scheduled to begin Monday, but prominent football teams including Notre Dame and Penn State have suspended all football-related activities indefinitely.

Recruiting has been grounded for all SEC programs.

The NCAA's unprecedented decision to cancel dozens of championships comes as sport leagues worldwide alter their schedules in response to coronavirus. The NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons, and MLB announced it would cancel all remaining spring training games and postpone its opening day scheduled for next month.

Most college conferences implemented competition restrictions this week, with some, including the Big Ten, canceling spring sports altogether.

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