INDIANAPOLIS — Unlike previous years, this March has been defined by the madness taking place off the hardwood.
Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NCAA Tournament has been cancelled, according to a release from the NCAA. All spring and winter competitions are cancelled as well.
“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,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.
The decision comes mere hours after each major Division I conference pulled the plug on their conference tournaments. The Ivy League — which cancelled its conference tournament on Wednesday — was the first domino to fall, and the rest of the country followed suit shortly after.
Less than 20 minutes before the beginning of Thursday’s four-game Big Ten Tournament slate, conference commissioner Kevin Warren called off the tournament. Michigan and Rutgers were finishing pregame warmups when he made the final call.
Michigan will cease all athletic events — including offseason practices and spring recruiting — through the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year as part of a Big Ten-wide decision. The Wolverines will also forbid coaches from off-campus recruiting and hosting recruits on official or unofficial campus visits during the time period.
“Today, we took the unprecedented and proactive decision to suspend intercollegiate activities to protect the health and well-being of our student-athletes, staff and community members,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “This decision, reached in collaboration with the Big Ten Conference and campus leaders, was reached after thorough discussion and was necessary given the magnitude of this global issue.
“The hard work and dedication of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is a source of inspiration for so many. So, too, will be our response as we confront the spread of this global pandemic. On behalf of our entire department, I thank the Big Ten Conference, presidents and athletic directors, our head coaches and community partners who have offered input and unwavering support.”
For the Wolverines, the cancellation brings an abrupt end to a time of year brimming with promise. During the first few weeks of the spring season, Michigan established itself as a national contender in baseball, softball, tennis and gymnastics, among other sports.
For basketball in particular, cancellations snowballed quickly. Shortly after the Big Ten cancelled its men’s basketball tournament, a mass cancellation of other conference tournaments ensued. Among the leaders of the movement was Duke athletic director Kevin White, who made waves by suspending all Blue Devil teams from competition indefinitely. As the chair of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee, White’s decision was the writing on the wall for national-level cancellations.
“Some things are bigger than basketball,” Wolverines’ coach Juwan Howard said in a statement. “This is a global situation and we need to make sure we follow the guidance and direction of the experts and health officials. … We want everyone to stay safe and take precautions to protect yourselves and loved ones.”