Concerns over the coronavirus — which has turned nearly every corner of the sporting world on its ear — did not spare Division II athletics.
The Mountain East Conference announced Thursday evening that it has suspended all spring sporting events indefinitely.
“In the interest of the safety and well being of everyone involved in intercollegiate athletics and the public, the Mountain East Conference has suspended all athletic competitions indefinitely,” MEC Commissioner Reid Amos said in a news release. “The decision was made with unanimous support of the league’s Board of Directors following today’s decision by the NCAA to cancel winter and spring championships for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.”
If West Virginia State athletic director Nate Burton had been asked at the start of the week if a spring sports suspension would surprise him, he would have said yes. Yet after the events of the last couple of days — when major conference basketball tournaments went from playing in empty arenas to getting shut down totally and the Division I tournament was canceled — he wasn’t surprised at all.
“I think at the end of the day, they were trying to protect the health and the well-being of student-athletes, staffs, coaches and community members,” he said.
University of Charleston athletic director Bren Stevens knew it was a tough call for Amos to make, but she also knew he was going to make an informed call.
“I know he’s been in touch with folks from the NCAA, our Board of Trustees and presidents across the 12 members campuses, along with a bunch of medical professionals, trying to make the best decision he can make,” she said. “It’s definitely a difficult decision and I support him in the decision he made.”
A big question Burton would like to see answered concerns student-athlete eligibility. If the entire spring season is scrapped, that’s an entire season of eligibility student-athletes could possibly lose.
“Personally, I’d be in favor of whatever benefits our student-athletes,” he said. “Their championship seasons have been taken away by reasons they can’t control. I do trust that the NCAA will make the appropriate decisions when it comes to that.”
Stevens would get behind a movement to do that. She has seen her coaches spend years building the teams they’re fielding this year, just to see them forced to the sidelines. She especially feels for seniors.
“It was really heartbreaking for them,” she said. “I think a lot of times, people throw around the word ‘adversity,’ and it irks me when people throw that word around. But for these players and these coaches, this is adversity.”
The winter sports postseason also ended abruptly, as the winter championships cancellation wiped out the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional tournament. The UC men’s basketball team, which finished as the MEC tournament runner-up to West Liberty, was set to play Mercyhurst on Friday at West Liberty in the first round of the regional.
The UC track and field team was also scheduled to participate in this weekend’s NCAA indoor national championships.
UC announced that, starting Monday, the university would transition to online instruction.