It’s officially called COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus. It can bring individuals, teams, leagues and countries to their collective knees.
It did that just this week here in the United States.
The 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 began slowing — and then stopping — many aspects of the amateur and professional sports world in the U.S. this week, ultimately shutting down the NCAA Division I National Championship Basketball Tournaments, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), the XFL professional football league, the Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) Boys State Tournament, the Major League Baseball (MLB) spring training and pushed back the start of the regular season by two weeks, among other teams, leagues and conferences.
The coronavirus first led NCAA officials to announce that all NCAA Division I men’s and women’s national championship tournaments would be played before near-empty arenas due to health and safety concerns for student-athletes, coaches, officials, fans and other tournament personnel.
But after the NBA discovered that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 and shut down the professional league for the foreseeable future on Wednesday evening, that led the NCAA to cancel it’s postseason basketball tournaments and beyond.
That meant that the 26th-ranked Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack basketball team would not get a chance to display its talent in the Southland Conference Tournament and possibly complete one of the most successful seasons in program history. The SFA Ladyjacks would not get a chance to earn an NCAA bid by winning the postseason tournament. It also meant that the student athletes that have spent months and years improving their talents, would not perform in front of a national audience this season.
“Can’t believe my college career ended like this, honestly I’m speechless,” said Kevon Harris, one of three seniors for the Lumberjack basketball squad on his Twitter page Thursday. “However I had an incredible season with my brothers & a(n) amazing journey throughout my four years at SFA! I appreciate all my fans and support SFA has shown since Day 1. I will forever be a Lumberjack.”
Lumberjack head coach Kyle Keller, who completed his fourth season in charge of the men’s basketball team, turned the program that went from an NCAA Tournament team in 2018 with a 28-3 record, to a disappointing 14-16 squad a year ago, and then back to one of the top squads in the country with a 28-3 record, a 15-game winning streak at the end of the season and a win in late November over No. 1-ranked Duke in overtime. He said words can’t describe the disappointment he was feeling for his team, the university and the fans on Thursday.
“I feel numb because it happened so fast (this week),” Keller said by phone as he and the team traveled back from Katy without the opportunity to play. “We had goals taken away that we wanted to accomplish that I feel we could have achieved. We finished 26th in the final (AP) poll and I feel we could have reached so much more and it has been taken away.
“You go from thinking you’re going to win another (SLC Tournament) championship, to having to decide who is going to be on your pass list (because we’re going to play in empty arenas for the conference tournament). Then they’re going to postpone it and now cancel it. There has been so much uncertainty.”
On Wednesday night it was announced that the Southland Conference and NCAA would play their postseason tournaments in front of mostly-empty arenas. By late Thursday morning that was changed and the Southland Conference men and women’s basketball tournament was called off.
Later Thursday the NCAA announced that their annual “March Madness” tournaments would not be played amid health concerns from the coronavirus situation.
On Thursday evening the NCAA canceled championships in all spring sports, including hockey, baseball and lacrosse, which includes the coveted College World Series.
Still more changes were in store at the local college level when the Southland Conference announced that, effective immediately, it was suspending all spring sports competitions through March 30. This includes conference and non-conference contests.
The league stated that SLC and campus administrators will convene in the coming weeks to determine exact return-to-competition arrangements and other issues.
In addition to the SFA springs sports of baseball, softball, track & field, beach volleyball, bowling, golf, tennis and spring soccer events coming to a screeching halt, the SFA football Spring Game has also been canceled.
At the high school level, the UIL Boys State Basketball Tournament was halted after the Class 3A semifinals on Thursday in the San Antonio Alamodome. It is unclear if it will ever be finished this year.
On a local level, the Nacogdoches Indepedent School District has announced that, beginning today (Friday), all sporting events and practices, along with all extra-curricular activities will come to a halt for the next seven days.