By Michael Kinney
In response to the Coronavirus-19 pandemic that has infiltrated the sports world, the NCAA announced Thursday that they were canceling all of its winter championships this season. That includes the women’s and men’s basketball, wrestling and gymnastics.
Soon after, the University of Oklahoma announced it was suspending all athletics competitions, as well as all out-of-season practices and workouts, until further notice.
“The health and welfare, safety of all the people we serve is the paramount focus of all of our deliberations and decision making,” said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione. “ I also want you to know we’ve been in constant contact with our campus leaders, most notably our interim president, Joe Harroz, and our conference leaders, and by extension, those on the national level. We’ve quickly triangulated and shared information as it was gathered and utilized it in trying to arrive at the best possible decisions. As you can imagine and have witnessed, things are evolving and have evolved rapidly. We’re trying to provide information back to you as best we can.”
The announcements ended the stellar careers of several Sooners, including Kristian Doolittle and Maggie Nichols.
Doolittle, a senior on the men’s basketball team took to social media to express his feelings.
“Wild to think it’s over this way,” Doolittle posted on Twitter. “But these past four years have been all I could dream of and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to represent my school and state to the best of my ability!! Thank you for all of the support!!”
Nichols is one of the most decorated women’s gymnasts to ever come through Oklahoma. She is a six-time individual national champion, 13-time NCAA All-American and 12-time WCGA All-American.
Nichols was looking forward to winning a third national championship with the top-ranked Sooners.
“Devastating,” Nichols stated, “absolutely devastating.”
Along with the winter championships that have been canceled, the NCAA has also canceled spring championships, which just began. Castiglione, who held a teleconference Thursday night, addressed the situation.
“We certainly understood the decisions taking place about winter championships,” Castiglione said. “We’re not altogether sure why championships, that wouldn’t occur till much later in spring/summer, are canceled now.”
However, the next day the NCAA Council Coordination Committee said it “agreed that it will be appropriate to grant relief for the use of a season of competition for student-athletes who have participated in spring sports.”
The decision grants athletes in Beach volleyball (women), golf (men, women), baseball, lacrosse (m, w), rowing (w), softball, tennis (m, w), outdoor track (m, w), men’s volleyball water polo (women) another year of eligibility. But, as always, it’s the details that need to be hashed out. Such as how will this affect roster sizes, scholarship limits and financial aid.
As for the rest of the 2020 spring campaign, championship tournaments are gone, the regular season could be picked back up at some point.
“The NCAA championships have now been eliminated. So we’ll probably talk about whether the conference would even sponsor a championship,” Castiglione said. “And if that decision is made, where all conference championships have been suspended, then we’ll get to the question of why would we have any competition. That would start. Long period of time to try to explain all of that. That’s why we need to continue to talk about this regularly, because at some point in the very near future, people are going to want to know the answer to the question.”
Even though Oklahoma has yet to cancel the football team’s spring game, which still remains a distinct option.
“That remains a possibility for sure. But what we’re trying to do is work through these time segments. If elapse that in other parts of the collegiate world, there are decisions being made to cancel seasons altogether,” Castiglione said. “And while we have not reached that stage yet in our own conference, that could change at any point. We’re just giving you the information as we know it right this minute. We definitely understand things could change, but that’s more than a month away, and I think a decision about the spring game isn’t as important right now as making prudent decisions in other cases. We realize that some might disagree, but we’re trying to take them in the right order here. If we’re going to continually delay the start of — the continuation, I should say, of spring practice, then obviously we would quickly decide whether we would change the date of the spring game or eliminate it altogether.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with Michael Kinney Media