Threat of COVID-19 impacting EKU athletics and sports worldwide

UPDATE (March 17):

The Ohio Valley Conference announced on Monday, March 16 the cancelation of all intercollegiate competitions, including OVC Championships, through the end of the 2019-20 academic year due to the COVID-19 public health threat.

“During this time of worldwide concern and uncertainty, EKU Sports supports this decision and the steps that have been taken to protect the health and welfare of our student-athletes, coaches, support staff and campus community,” director of athletics Matt Roan said in a release.

Additionally, all team practices will be suspended until April 3. The impact of the suspension will be re-evaluated on April 3. During this time period, student-athletes are not allowed to be engaged in strength and conditioning and training room activities according to the release.

“While these actions are understandably disappointing to many, including myself, please know that these decisions, while unprecedented, were developed after great consideration and are in the best interest of all. We look forward to working to mitigate the impact on our student-athletes, coaches, staff, and fans,” Roan said in the release. “In the meantime, we will continue supporting Colonel student-athletes in their pursuits of student success, personal development and total wellness. We look forward to the next time we can compete and represent our great institution and stakeholders.”

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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has already impacted universities around the country like Eastern Kentucky University, but it has also impacted athletics from the collegiate level to the professional level.

EKU announced on Wednesday, March 11, that spring break would be extended another week and that classes would be moved online due to the concerns and spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) until April 3.

The spread of COVID-19 has also impacted EKU athletics.

Kyle Schwartz, Ohio Valley Conference assistant commissioner for strategic communications, informed OVC schools and media on Thursday, March 12 that all OVC athletic events would be suspended.

“The Ohio Valley Conference Board of Presidents has announced that effective immediately OVC member institutions will suspend athletic-related activities including all competition, and formal practices until further notice due to the COVID-19 public health threat,” Schwartz said in the release.

All recruiting-related travel is also suspended until April 3 according to Schwartz. At that time, the restriction will be evaluated.

“The main priority of the OVC is to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and administrators. The league will continue to monitor all relevant information on COVID-19 on a daily basis,” Schwartz said in the release.

College athletics, the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) have all been affected by the spread and concern of COVID-19.

March Madness

The 2020 NCAA basketball tournament, March Madness, has been cancelled.

The NCAA announced Thursday that the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be cancelled following an announcement by NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Prior to the Thursday announcement, on Wednesday Emmert said that the NCAA would follow the lead of other sporting events and restrict fan access to its signature event, the men’s basketball tournament, due to coronavirus concerns.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events to dot contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the association said in a release on Thursday.

The cancellation extends to all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships.

“I understand how much this tournament means to our fans, especially those who can’t get tickets to @Rupp_Arena," University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari tweeted. "Our team is saddened you can’t be in the building with us. At the end of the day, the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and #BBN must take priority. I know our fan base will still show support for these kids through other means.”

The Big 12, Big Ten, PAC-12, ACC, Big East, SEC and Conference USA announced Thursday, March 12 that all post season tournaments will be cancelled.

On Tuesday, the Ivy League cancelled its men's and women's basketball conference tournaments because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. The four-team tournaments were scheduled to be played Friday through Sunday at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge, MA. The Ivy League instead will award its automatic NCAA tournament bids to the regular-season champions, the Princeton women and Yale men.

NBA, MLB, NHL  

The Golden State Warriors became the first NBA team to restrict fans from games because of the Coronavirus, closing the doors to spectators for Thursday’s game against the Nets at Chase Center in San Francisco.

“We are closely monitoring developments to determine the appropriate course for future Warriors home games and will continue to work with local governments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts to protect the health of our fans, players, coaches and staff in NBA markets across the country,” Mike Bass, a spokesman for the NBA, said in a statement.

The Jazz and Thunder were set to play on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City but moments before tip-off they announced that the game would be postponed. The players were quarantined in the OKC arena, league sources told ESPN. This followed Rudy Gobert testing positive for the Coronavirus.

Members of the two teams include former UK players Nerlens Noel, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo along with Louisville's Donavan Mitchell.

Mitchell tested positive for the Coronavirus according to ESPN on Thursday. 

ESPN’s Adrain Wojnarowski announced Wednesday night on Twitter that the NBA season has been suspended. 

Major League Baseball is also seeing the impacts of the spread of COVID-19. 

The Seattle Mariners announced that they were working with the league to find alternative arrangements for home games at the end of March.

The MLB will suspend operations for the next four weeks, including spring training and the first two weeks of the regular season in response to the spread of coronavirus, the league announced Thursday.

The National Hockey League also made an announcement concerning the spread of COVID-19. The Columbus Blue Jackets said they would restrict attendance after the governor of Ohio announced that a ban on large gatherings was coming.

More teams and organizations are likely to suspend or postpone their seasons or games as this is a developing situation. 

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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