On Wednesday afternoon, just three days after winning the Region 20 tournament to advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association DII National Tournament for only the second time in program history, the Howard Community College men’s basketball team was informed that it will not be allowed to participate because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
Howard CC has suspended all athletic team out-of-state travel until further notice, which includes the basketball team’s upcoming trip to Danville, Illinois for the national tournament. The Dragons were scheduled to leave via bus on Saturday.
Members of the team and coaching staff were brought together and addressed by Howard CC Vice President of Student Services Cindy Peterka immediately after practice on Wednesday and made aware of the decision.
Shortly after, just before 7 p.m., an email was sent out to all members of the Howard Community College community providing an update on the college’s operations, travel restrictions and opportunities for support in relation to the novel coronavirus disease. The same information was posted on the school’s website.
“Howard Community College has been closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation with the coronavirus. Every hour brings new information to carefully consider,” said Elizabeth Homan, Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing for Howard CC. “Out-of-state travel had already been suspended by the county, state, and some of our own peer community colleges in Maryland. We made the decision to suspend all out-of-state travel out of an abundance of caution, and after considering CDC and health department guidelines, and local, state, and national news.”
Homan added that the travel regulations extend beyond just athletics.
“The out-of-state travel suspension is for all students and employees. In addition to athletics travel, we canceled an alternative spring break trip within the United States, spring break and summer study abroad trips, and other out-of-state student trips planned for this month,” she said. “We have to look at the health and wellness of the entire community."
Howard CC defeated CCBC Dundalk for the Region 20 tournament title on Sunday by a score of 104-85, securing the automatic bid into the national tournament. The team then found out on Tuesday that it would be the eighth seed in the 16-team field and face ninth-seeded North Central Missouri in the opening round on Tuesday, March 17.
Just over 24 hours later, however, the team was made aware that it would not be allowed to make the trip. As of Wednesday evening, all 15 other teams in the NJCAA DII field were still scheduled to participate.
Homan said the decision was not an easy one.
“We came to this decision after much deliberation, and we understand how difficult and emotional this news is for our student-athletes and their families,” she said. “We had to make difficult decisions that we believe are in the best, long-term interest of students, faculty, staff, and the Howard County community.”
On Thursday afternoon, the NJCAA announced that the DII tournament was postponed.