The coronavirus has already affected the lives of people all across Alabama.
It has especially impacted NCAA sports athletes and coaches.
On Thursday the Southeastern Conference made the decision to cancel the SEC men’s basketball tournament just two hours before the University of Alabama was to tip-off against Tennessee.
Shortly after that decision, the NCAA canceled their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments as well. Those tournaments were to begin later this week.
Then word came down from the NCAA that all of the spring sports were canceled as well.
SEC regular-season play was supposed to have started this weekend for baseball and softball and now those teams’ years are over.
Auburn Athletics Director Allen Greene recounted what happened in that decision making with Auburn sports play-by-play caller Andy Burcham.
Greene said that the SEC athletics directors were having a meeting on Thursday that was supposed to have lasted just a couple of hours, but ended up taking all day. Greene said that talks that morning began with discussing the possibility of refunding SEC tournament tickets for fans who were prevented from attending the tournament because they were had concerns about the coronavirus to playing the tournament without allowing any fans present to finally just canceling the tournament altogether.
Greene said that the ADs after a morning break in the discussions, “came back and talked about the coronavirus and how we are going to manage it.”
“Things were spinning in my head,” Greene said. “The ADs realized that this was about more than just basketball.”
Eventually, the ADs broke from their meeting because they, “Had to touch base with the university presidents and chancellors” and it was ultimately they who made the decision to cancel the tournament while the Alabama and Tennessee teams were already in the arena preparing for the game that ultimately was never played.
“This wasn’t an isolated Southeastern Conference decision,” Greene said. “We were getting information from all over the country.”
Mitch Barnhart, the Athletic Director at Kentucky, was keeping the group abreast of what the NCAA decisionmakers were thinking. Those decisions were being made parallel to the conference decisions.
The day before the NCAA had made the decision to play both basketball tournaments without fans. On Thursday the NCAA made the decision to cancel those tournaments. The NCAA then made the decision to cancel the seasons for all the Spring sports as well.
“That was a surprise also,” Green said.
“We weren’t just talking about Southeastern Conference, we were talking about our country,” Green recounts of the meeting.
For Auburn men’s basketball Coach Bruce Pearl and his players, it was especially shocking. Auburn was the defending SEC tournament champion and was forecast to be a fourth or fifth seed in the NCAA tournament that never happened. The 2019 team had advanced all the way to the final four and this team had ambitions of doing the same.
UAB has already canceled it’s spring football game and it appears that Alabama, Auburn and the other football schools will soon also cancel their events due to concerns about spreading the coronavirus.
The stunning events have shocked many sports boosters across the state.
Regular political commentator Perry O. Hooper Jr. is also an Auburn Alumni and father of three former Division 1 football players.
“As the father of 3 sons who player Division 1 football I know how hard these kids have worked for these tournaments,” Hooper said. “I especially feel bad for the seniors, not only at Auburn but across the nation. I wish they had suspended play and taken a few days to figure a way of continuing the conference tournaments in secure locations where everyone could be tested and the fans could have enjoyed the tournaments on television and the players could see the result of their hard work. These tournaments would lead up to a very different and special NCAA tournament”
No decision has yet been made as to whether or not college football will be played this year and whether or not fans will be able to attend those games if they are played.