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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The ever-escalating coronavirus pandemic has dealt its biggest blow to the world of collegiate athletics.
The NCAA announced Thursday afternoon that it has canceled this year’s remaining winter and spring championships, a slate of events that includes the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments as well as the College World Series.
"This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not 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 NCAA wrote in a news release.
That decision was the crescendo to a week-long rise of concerns over spread of the coronavirus — the NCAA had announced Wednesday plans to contest the men’s basketball tournament in empty venues, and earlier Thursday, every major conference canceled the remainder of their league championship tournaments, including the Big 12 Tournament slated for Sprint Center.
Kansas, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, was seen as a lock to receive the NCAA Tournament’s top-overall seed and had been considered the favorite heading into a March Madness that will now never occur.
"Nightmare," tweeted Jayhawk sophomore point guard Devon Dotson.
Shortly after news broke of the NCAA Tournament cancellations, the Big 12 announced that beginning Friday it will suspend all regular-season competitions, on- and off-campus recruiting and out-of-season practices — including the spring football slate — until at least March 29. That decision will not impact campus-based practices for in-season sports nor strength and conditioning activities for all sports.
Before the NCAA's decision, KU athletic director Jeff Long announced that the Jayhawks had decided to cancel all athletic travel indefinitely in addition to all home and away athletics events. Long cited "the recommendation of our medical professionals" in the university's decision.
"Our highest priority at Kansas Athletics is to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff," Long said in a news release. "... We will continue to monitor the situation and determine the next appropriate steps based on advice from our medical team."
Kansas State also announced measures aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus — the Wildcat athletic department canceled all in-season competition, all out-of-season practices and all recruiting travel for coaches — effective through March 30.
"We must put the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and University community first in this situation," K-State athletic director Gene Taylor said in a news release. "We will continue to work closely with appropriate medical professionals, the Big 12 Conference and our University administration to monitor the situation and make changes as we see fit. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through this very serious and delicate situation."
Wichita State, a member of the American Athletic Conference, rounded out the action taken by Kansas’ only Division I programs by suspending indefinitely all athletic events as the university assesses near- and long-term potential impacts of the virus.
"If we are in the camp that decided to do things too aggressively," said Wichita State athletic director Darron Boatright, "in this case I'll be glad to be in that camp, as opposed to had we not made the decisions that we made and put individuals in harms way"