Amid concerns over the coronavirus, now labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the Big Ten Conference on Thursday announced that it was cancelling “all conference and non-conference competitions through the end of the academic year, including spring sports that compete beyond the academic year, and participation in all NCAA tournaments and competitions.”
Earlier Thursday, the conference announced it was canceling the remainder of the men’s basketball tournament. In addition, the Big Ten announced a moratorium on all on- and off-campus recruiting activities “for the foreseeable future.”
The conference’s decision to halt spring sports followed the NCAA’s announcement on Thursday to cancel its remaining winter and sports championships, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The other Power 5 conferences — the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the Pac-12 Conference and the Big 12 Conference — announced one-by-one that they would be suspending their spring sports competitions.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during the academic year given the ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in statement.
The Big Ten initially announced Wednesday that it would continue to hold its conference tournament as planned. After NCAA president Mark Emmert later announced that the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be held without spectators, the Big Ten reversed course and announced attendance at its conference tournament would be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams.
The Big Ten played the first two games of its tournament Wednesday night with spectators allowed to watch the matches between Northwestern and Minnesota, and Nebraska and Indiana.
The Maryland men’s basketball team had a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament and was scheduled to play its first game Friday evening.
“I understand and respect the conference’s decision to cancel this year’s Big Ten tournament,” Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon wrote Thursday in a social media post. “The health and safety of our student-athletes and entire program is paramount. This is an unprecedented situation that is much bigger than basketball. I remain hopeful that a resolution will be found to provide our student-athletes with the opportunity to complete their season.”
Some members of the Maryland men’s basketball team have reacted to the news.
“Woww......this can’t be real at all,” sophomore forward Jalen Smith wrote on Twitter. Smith, who earlier in the week was named First Team All-Big Ten, is a projected first-round pick in the 2020 NBA draft and could forego his remaining eligibility for the pros.
Maryland’s Pro Day, scheduled for March 25, has been “postponed until further notice,” and all football spring practices are “suspended until further notice,” a spokesperson for the team confirmed.
The 68-team field for the men’s tournament is scheduled to be announced Sunday and the 64-team women’s tournament field is to be unveiled Monday. Games begin Tuesday and Wednesday on the men’s side in Dayton, Ohio, where earlier Wednesday the governor ordered to restrict spectator access to indoor sporting events.
As concern over the spread of the coronavirus increases, it continues to impact the world of sports. The NBA announced the suspension of games Wednesday night after a player from the Utah Jazz, reported to be center Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the coronavirus. Wednesday night’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was suspended and members from the Jazz were subsequently tested for COVID-19. ESPN reported Thursday morning that Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has also tested positive for the coronavirus.