CLEVELAND — The Mid-American Conference announced Thursday it will cancel its tournaments, joining several other college basketball conferences following the outbreak of COVID-19.
The move was in response to the growing concern of the virus impacting athletic events, for the safety of the players, fans and staff. This follows the MAC’s previous restriction on attendance of the tournament Tuesday, only allowing select family members of student-athletes and credentialed media to attend.
“We have been meeting all morning with our directors of athletics, our presidents — talking about what is the appropriate path forward,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “We’ve also been paying attention to what has been going on around us, both in the world at large and in the sports world, and as you’ve seen this morning, you’ve seen a number of conferences that have made the decision to cancel. We have come to the same decision to cancel our event.”
Yesterday evening it was announced that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert of the NBA was diagnosed with coronavirus, prompting the cancellation of two of the league’s games that night, and the suspension of the NBA season. Gobert had just played a game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on March 2, when the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Jazz. This however, did not play a role in the MAC’s decision to cancel the games, as there had been a number of events at the FieldHouse, according to Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski.
“From what we're understanding based on incubation period and actually where symptoms appear and given the length of time from when the Jazz were in town until when last night occurred, would suggest that the risk was very low that the affected player actually had contracted it and had that while he was in Cleveland,” Komoroski said.
Steinbrecher said the decision was made to protect the student-athletes, despite taking away some of their last chances at playing college basketball and the economic opportunity for the area.
As of Thursday afternoon, the NCAA has not canceled or suspended its tournament, despite pressure from several members in the media.
With the announcement, the regular season conference champion gets the bid to the NCAA Tournament, eliminating any hope for a continuation of NIU’s best season since 2005-06.
Friday’s game against Ball State University was the last time redshirt senior forward Lacey James, senior guard Eugene German and senior forward Noah McCarty would suit up for the Huskies.
The long-term impact these cancellations will have on college basketball and the sports world as a whole remains to be seen.
This is a developing situation and the Northern Star Sports Staff will continue to keep you updated on any more news surrounding the pandemic’s impact on the sports world.