On Thursday, March 12, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced the cancellation of all Division I winter and spring championships, including both the men’s and women’s “March Madness” basketball tournaments.
“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 NCAA championships,” the NCAA’s statement read. “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.”
Shortly afterwards, the America East Conference announced that all competitions and practices would be canceled through the end of the academic year.
“Effective immediately, all competition and practices for all teams and individual student‐athletes at America East Conference institutions have been canceled for the rest of this academic year, including any spring sport events that occur beyond the academic year,” the America East’s statement read. “The decision was made in light of the recent developments, including the cancellation of all NCAA winter and spring championships, regarding the spread of the COVID‐19 virus. This is a proactive decision to protect the health, safety and well‐being of everyone.”
Earlier on Thursday, it had been announced that the America East Conference had canceled both its men’s and women’s championship games. The latter featured the No. 1-seeded Stony Brook women’s basketball team and the No. 2-seeded Maine Black Bears.
The Seawolves owned a program-best 28-3 record, had won their first-ever America East regular season title and had been awarded the conference championship by virtue of being the highest seed remaining. Stony Brook was on course to earn their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth as well.
For spring sports, the abrupt end to the season is a harsh blow to squads who had just started playing. Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse is currently nationally ranked in the top five of all three major polls and was set to play Power 5 schools such as USC, Stanford and Colorado. Under first-year head coach Anthony Gilardi, Stony Brook Men’s Lacrosse had a 5-2 record and got off to their best 7-game start since 2016.
Stony Brook Softball stood as the last undefeated team in the nation after winning their first seven games, and their 10-4 season was highlighted by junior pitcher Dawn Bodrug’s perfect game. Stony Brook Baseball was beginning to turn their campaign around after returning home to Joe Nathan Field, going 4-1 in a 5-game homestand with America East play right ahead. Stony Brook Tennis, fresh off a narrow defeat in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship last season, currently has a 4-game winning streak.
“This was the final gut punch of an emotionally draining day,” Stony Brook Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron said on Twitter. “We must support the decision and take all lessons that we can from it. I know that I speak for my fellow ADs when I say that we will stand up for every student-athlete. We’ll always have your back!”
With the cancellation of all games until the end of the semester, the Stony Brook baseball team’s 4-2 defeat over Merrimack on Wednesday, March 11, marks the final Seawolves athletic event of the 2019-20 calendar year.
Various Stony Brook athletic teams had games canceled recently due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse saw their top-10 showdown against the No. 7 USC Trojans on March 15 postponed, Stony Brook Softball’s five games at the Seattle U Invitational from March 13 to March 15 were wiped off the schedule, and Stony Brook Tennis’ contests against Northern Iowa and Drake on March 21 and March 22 were canceled in an attempt to halt road travel.
When the Ivy League announced the cancellation of its spring sports yesterday, Men’s Lacrosse was forced to cancel its April 4 game against No. 3 Princeton while Tennis could no longer play Brown on March 14.
Initially, the America East Conference had planned on suspending all games until April 3, which Women’s Lacrosse head coach Joe Spallina confirmed in an interview with For the Fans. Spallina was in a staff meeting with Heilbron when the NCAA’s ruling was announced on Twitter.
For senior spring athletes who had their final season shortened just as it started, the announcement is even more devastating as their future is now riddled with uncertainty. The NCAA has not yet made a statement regarding granting spring athletes an extra year of eligibility.