Coronavirus infects sports; AZ schools among the victims


The Coronavirus is spreading. And now it has infected college sports. In a big way.

Meanwhile, high school sports in this state are still in a wait-and-see mode.

(Update: With high schools shut down until the end of the month, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) has cancelled all spring sports competition through March 28, but hopes to still be able to hold state tournaments for the spring sports if play is resumed.)

It didn’t take the NCAA long to jump on the panic bandwagon. Just hours after several conferences began cancelling their basketball conference tournaments, the governing body for collegiate sports announced it was cancelling the NCAA Tournament.

March Madness will be on hiatus this year, which means no bracketology, no office pools, no national champion. No fun.

Here in the Grand Canyon State, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, this state’s representatives in the Pac-12 Conference, issued announcements to guide their fans through the remainder of the school year.

Both schools posted messages yesterday on their websites and social media platforms similar to this notice by the University of Arizona:

“The Pac-12 Conference has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament and all the Pac-12 sport competitions and Pac-12 Championship events, effective immediately, until further notice. This decision has been made in consultation with our member universities in an effort to limit the spread of the virus and in the interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes, campus personnel, working and even personnel, and all those who attend Pac-12 events.”

While the schools expressed concern for the safety and health of its employees and workers at these events, an even bigger problem for many of them will be replacing the revenue they will lose during this time, which could last the remainder of the school year.

About the same time yesterday, the NCAA was issuing a similar edict, but was more specific about spring sports programs: “Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring championships.”

The Arizona Athletic Department explained that it is “actively working to enact new refund procedures” for those fans who have purchased tickets for the various events.

Arizona State was more specific. For individual game ticket purchases, buyers will automatically receive a credit on their account, or can receive a refund by filling out a ticket refund form. For season ticket holders, those fans will also receive a credit for the number of games canceled.

ASU also announced plans for the various sports teams to continue practicing and preparing for the winter postseason schedule, in the event they resume. It also explained that student-athletes will continue their class schedules online.

All of this is subject to change, of course. But for now, the colleges are trying to be proactive and informative.

For the high schools, however, the future is not as clear. Many of the school districts are on spring break, so any decisions on continuing with the regularly-scheduled spring events will have to be addressed next week.

Next week is also when the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), the governing body for high school sports in the state, will have its next meeting. The Coronavirus and the need for necessary precautions going forward will be on the agenda.

While there may be some schedule suspensions in some of the sports, it doesn’t appear that there will be major disruption at this point. But that could change, depending on which way the virus takes us.

Right now, the biggest disruptions could occur in those tournaments and invitationals that include schools from outside the state. Cancellations for various events have already begun coming in from teams that are under travel restrictions imposed by their schools or state governing bodies.

The AIA is leaving the decision on cancellations up to the individual schools or districts, with the normal cancellation fees being waived.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics/ Jacquie Harbour)