NCAA postseason events, Big Ten events canceled

The NCAA and Big Ten Conference both announced Thursday afternoon that all future tournaments and sporting events will be canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

Fans+leave+the+game+after+the+men%27s+basketball+game+against+Western+Carolina+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Tuesday%2C+December+18%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Catamounts+78-60.+

Katina Zentz

Fans leave the game after the men’s basketball game against Western Carolina at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, December 18, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Catamounts 78-60.

Austin Hanson, Assistant Sports Editor

March 12, 2020 is a day sports fans will not soon forget.

The sports world seemed to stop spinning Thursday afternoon as NCAA announced that it would not conduct any of its postseason championships, including the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The Big Ten Conference then canceled its tournament and the remainder of its 2020 winter and spring sporting events.

A statement from NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors explained that their decision was based on the evolving threat of the novel coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the NCAA’s governing entities believed that it would be impractical to conduct any events that may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

In its 80-year history, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament has never been canceled.

RELATED: Big Ten cancels men’s basketball tournament

All NCAA sports will be affected by the cancelation, including the Division I Wrestling Tournament in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Other championships for sports such as baseball, softball, tennis, track, gymnastics, and golf will not be held in 2020.

The decision came in the wake multiple athletic conferences canceling postseason men’s basketball tournaments, including the Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference, and South Eastern Conference.

“First and foremost, our prayers are with those who have been affected by the coronavirus, as well as those responsible for the decisions that affect so many,” Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said. “Following the advice from global health professionals, the Big Ten made a very difficult, but correct decision.”

Soon after the conferences and the NCAA announced postseason tournaments cancelations, a bevy of schools began canceling all athletic events for the remainder spring season. Duke and Kansas were two of the most notable schools to take action early on.

As individual schools began canceling their sporting events, entire conferences started to evaluate the viability of hosting any sporting events remaining on their athletic calendars.

The ACC was the first of the NCAA’s power 5 conferences to cancel all of its athletic events for the remainder of the spring.

At 3:18 p.m. Thursday, the Big Ten Conference announced that it would not hold any winter or spring sporting events in 2020.

“All conference and non-conference competitions through the end of the academic year, including spring sports that compete beyond the academic year [are canceled],” the conference said in a statement.

The conference will be enforcing an additional moratorium on all on-and-off-campus recruiting activities for the foreseeable future.

RELATED: Big Ten commissioner Warren speaks on Big Ten Tournament cancellation

The conference will use the hiatus to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The main priority of the Big Ten Conference continues to be the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus,” the conference said.

The Big Ten’s decision to cancel all of its remaining winter and spring sporting events have far-reaching consequences on the University of Iowa Athletic Department.

“We fully support the actions being taken by the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA, knowing that the health, safety, and wellness of our student-athletes and staff members is the top priority,” University of Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta said. “My heart aches for our student-athletes, coaches, and athletic staff as our spring sport seasons are cut short, especially for our seniors. I sympathize with our winter sports teams who were primed to compete at their upcoming NCAA Championship events. We will do everything in our power to provide our full support for everyone in Iowa athletics as we move forward through the spring semester.”

Among the winter sports teams affected is wrestling, as the team seemed primed to return to the top of the sport for the first time since 2010. The No. 1 Hawkeyes finished the regular season 13-0 with 10 wins over ranked opponents.

The Hawkeyes followed their regular season performance with a Big Ten Team Championship. Big Ten Wrestler of the Year Spencer Lee and 149-pound Pat Lugo each won their first individual titles at the 2020 Big Ten Tournament. 165-pound Alex Marinelli also won his second-straight Big Ten title.

The momentum should’ve carried 10 Hawkeyes to the NCAA Wrestling Championships. A potentially all-time great Iowa wrestling team will never see its program-restoring championship dreams come to fruition.

“Our coaching staff is disappointed for our guys, their families, and our fans,” Iowa wrestling head coach Tom Brands said in a statement. “I understand the Big Ten Conference and NCAA made decisions based on information available and are acting in what they believe is in the best interest of the student-athletes. We will process this and move forward, as we always do. Our guys have a lot to be proud of and much more still to accomplish.”

Hawkeye women’s basketball also should’ve gotten a shot at an NCAA title. Iowa was primed to receive a top-four NCAA Tournament seed that would’ve enabled them to host two NCAA Tournament games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa finished the regular season with a 23-7 overall record, going 14-4 in conference play. Senior guard Kathleen Doyle won the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Player of the Year award at the end of the regular season.

Unfortunately for Doyle and her Hawkeyes, the 87-66 blowout loss they suffered to Ohio State during the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament on March 6 will serve as their last game of the season.

“While we are tremendously disappointed, our prayers are with all those suffering from the coronavirus and for all those making decisions in how to best treat and contain the pandemic,” Hawkeye head coach Lisa Bluder said in a statement. “Our players have worked so hard all season long to achieve success and earn the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. It is a shocking and unprecedented way to end a season. I feel especially sad for our seniors that will not get the opportunity to wear the Iowa uniform again. They have given so much. However, we have no control over this and we trust that what is being done is in the best interest of not only our student-athletes, but for every citizen within our country and around the world.”

The  final game of the season for the men’s basketball team came against Illinois on March 8, where the Hawkeyes lost lose in heart-breaking fashion, 78-76. Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza’s game-tying attempt was blocked by Big Ten Freshman of the Year Kofi Cockburn as the game clock expired.

Luka Garza was one of the favorites to win the Naismith National Player of the Year Award, guiding the Hawkeyes to a 20-11 overall record. The winner of the award is supposed to be announced on April 5.

The depleted Iowa squad lost senior Jordan Bohannon and sophomore Jack Nunge to injuries early in 2019-20, but the Hawkeyes cinderella story never got a chance to get its feet off the ground.

Hawkeye track and field is one of many Iowa spring sports that have been disrupted. Senior thrower Laulauga Tausaga had just been named Midwest Regional Female Field Athlete of the Year by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association.

Tausaga was among seven athletes set to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this weekend.

“Our student-athletes and their coaches and families have every reason to be proud of what the accomplished this season,” Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody said in a statement. “The work they put in around the clock and calendar led to unforgettable memories, and our performances will be forever represented in our Big Ten and school record books. We will miss the competition, but respect the decision of the NCAA and Big Ten Conference. It is the right decision, and we extend our thoughts and prayers to those around the globe working diligently to care for everyone affected by COVID-19.”

Iowa softball also seemed primed for a storybook season. The Hawkeyes’ 17-5 start was their best since 2013. Iowa was just two wins away from matching its 2019 win total.

Head coach Renee Gillispie will have to wait until 2021 to see if her Iowa softball reclamation project was a success.

At Duane Banks Field, Iowa baseball was also earning its fair share of achievements. Head coach Rick Heller won his 900th game on March 3. Iowa was 10-5 overall on the season with one of the hottest offenses in baseball.

Many other Hawkeyes sports have been afflicted by the NCAA and Big Ten’s decision. As the athletes try to come to grips with what has happened, so too will their dedicated fans.

Sports fans of all teams and leagues are reeling today as professional organizations such as the NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS have all suspended operations. However, they will recover and come back stronger than ever with renewed appreciation for the teams and athletes of which they have become so fond.

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