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Sports >  National sports

Spring stalled: Coronavirus concerns force area colleges to cancel or suspend spring sports

UPDATED: Fri., March 13, 2020

Gonzaga’s Ryan Sullivan (40) singles against Oregon State during an NCAA baseball game on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 in Surprise, Ariz. The senior is among many local college athletes that will be affected by Monday’s vote by the NCAA to give college athletes who compete in spring sports such as baseball, softball and lacrosse a way to get back the season they lost. (Jennifer Stewart / AP)
Gonzaga’s Ryan Sullivan (40) singles against Oregon State during an NCAA baseball game on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 in Surprise, Ariz. The senior is among many local college athletes that will be affected by Monday’s vote by the NCAA to give college athletes who compete in spring sports such as baseball, softball and lacrosse a way to get back the season they lost. (Jennifer Stewart / AP)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

A whirlwind of a Thursday culminated with nearly every regional sporting event and season either being postponed or canceled outright because of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

That includes all West Coast Conference, Pac-12, Northwest Conference and Northwest Athletic Conference spring sport seasons.

Spring sports include baseball, golf, lacrosse, softball, tennis and track and field.

After the announcement of the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament on Thursday, Gonzaga’s athletic director Mike Roth held a news conference to explain the situation. During the news conference, he announced that GU would be suspending all spring sports, including baseball.

“The reason we’re not playing games is because we are trying to limit the potential spread of this virus,” he said. “So to play games, it is defeating the purpose of cutting back to start with, or canceling all these championships and contests.”

It’s devastating news for the student-athletes who have their entire postseasons or seasons wiped out.

“It is something that has happened, but yeah, there is a lot of emotion right now,” Roth said. “One of the things we talked about as a staff, there really isn’t anyone to be mad at. We can be mad at a virus, and for sure we’re all mad at this virus.”

Washington State, Eastern Washington, Idaho, Whitworth, the Community Colleges of Spokane and North Idaho College also face at least a suspension of their seasons.

Essentially, college athletics in the area are on a hiatus for an unknown amount of time.

“When it gets taken away from us, we realize how important it really is … the health of our society, the physical health of our society, is more important. There is no argument on that one,” Roth said.

The NCAA has not suspended spring sports from the top down, instead relying on conferences and institutions to make that call, but all spring NCAA championships already have been canceled. If spring sports do resume this season, there will be no NCAA champions crowned.

Roth was asked about the potential for extending an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes who are missing out on up to a quarter of their college careers. On Thursday, he wasn’t sure how plausible that decision could be, but on Friday the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee granted another year or eligibility to every spring athlete.

“Council leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports,” the release from the NCAA read.

The Division II and Division III councils followed suit and are extending student-athletes another year of eligibility.

Unfortunately for winter athletes – including men’s and women’s basketball – granting another year of eligibility is unlikely. For seniors, that means their college careers are over.

“I’d support anything, but I think logistically, it is impossible,” Roth said. “It’s one thing if we’re talking about a sport that hasn’t started yet … but (winter athletes) have played their season. No one is playing in their regular seasons.

“That is the hardest thing … (the seniors) don’t get to play their last game. They played their last game, and they knew they’d get to keep playing and now they don’t get that opportunity.”

The issues remain as to how institutions will handle scholarships and recruits for next season, but that decision will be made in the coming days and weeks, according to the NCAA.

The NCAA has not released an official statement regarding winter athletes, but that is expected in the days and weeks ahead.

“Sports are a great thing and college athletics are one of the greatest things about America, one of the greatest things we have going on as a society, in my opinion,” Roth said.

Spokane, more than many cities across the country, is spoiled in terms of the quality of college sports available.

Roth and GU wanted to extend gratitude toward the city of Spokane for its continued support during the tumultuous time.

“Let Spokane know how much Gonzaga University loves them, and that we really feel not just for our kids or our staff, but for Spokane,” he said.

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