Coronavirus

Southland Conference cancels tournaments in Katy amid coronavirus concerns

Katy ISD athletic events postponed, effective March 13-22

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 3/12/20

Tears were shed, hugs were embraced, and consoling words were given. Common sights any other year at the Southland Conference men’s and basketball tournaments, but a surreal one this year.

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Coronavirus

Southland Conference cancels tournaments in Katy amid coronavirus concerns

Katy ISD athletic events postponed, effective March 13-22

Posted

Tears were shed, hugs were embraced, and consoling words were given. Common sights any other year at the Southland Conference men’s and basketball tournaments, but a surreal one this year.

Shortly before tip-off of the Southeastern Louisiana-New Orleans women’s basketball game on the morning of March 12, it was announced over the public address system to a limited attendance that the tournaments were canceled, effective immediately, due to precautions for coronavirus. That decision was made at around 11:19 a.m. Not long before, the Big 10, SEC and American Conference canceled their respective tournaments.

The decision to cancel the Southland tournaments was made by member presidents. For the 13th consecutive season, the tournaments were being held at the Merrell Center. The winner of each tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which was also canceled this year later that same day.

Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans players wept, hugged each other and emotionally walked off the court back to their locker rooms, a particularly heartbreaking moment for the seniors who had learned their careers had abruptly come to an end.

“It’s a sad time for sports, a sad time for life, period,” Southland Conference deputy commissioner John Williams said. “This is just a small blip on the screen in the world, and we have to keep that in perspective. But it is a sad time for the kids, when they hear the announcement, that their career is over and they don’t get to play that last game they thought they would. That’s what got me, just watching for them. We feel for them, we wish them the best in life, but this is something they’ll never get back.”

The Southland announced later on March 12 that it suspended all competition for its spring sports, effective through March 30. Practices, including spring football, will be up to each institution.

Williams said the conference had been monitoring coronavirus for about a week, without knowing how extensive it would get.

“But we knew going into an arena was one of the areas most people were concerned about,” Williams said. “We came here with Katy not having any incidents, we felt good about that, and were looking at trying to get through this.”

At 6:31 p.m. on March 11, following Northwestern State's win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi that opened the men’s Southland tournament and before Lamar’s win over McNeese in the nightcap, the Southland announced it would limit attendance for its tournaments starting the following Thursday to teams, game officials, tournament staff, spirit groups, credentialed media, other support personnel and family members included on the teams’ official pass lists. Ticket holders were not permitted to attend.

“(On March 11), the commissioner (Tom Burnett) and I talked over and over about where we’re going to be at, and we felt like having too many fans in here was not a good thing, but we still went on with the tournament, like everybody else,” Williams said. “Then (on March 12), the Big 10 teams pulled their teams off the court, SEC cancels, American (conference) cancels.”

About four hours after the Southland announced the cancellation of its tournaments, the NCAA announced it canceled remaining winter and spring championships. The college sports season for 2019-20 is done.

According to cdc.gov, there have been 1,215 cases of the coronavirus in the United States. There have been 32 total deaths. Forty-two states have reported cases.

Because of coronavirus, Major League Baseball canceled its spring training and push the start of its season back at least two weeks, the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and College World Series’ were canceled, the NBA, NHL and MLS suspended their seasons, the PGA canceled events through the Valero Texas Open, and the UIL suspended its boys basketball state tournament.

“In a situation like this, basketball is a small piece,” Williams said. “When you look at the millions of people, or hundreds of thousands, who have been affected by this, it’d be stupid to put ourselves in jeopardy and people’s lives in jeopardy just to get a game. At the end of the day, it’s a game. These kids are young and they have a whole life ahead of them, so let’s not ruin that. Right now, it hurts like heck. But I’ll appreciate all of our understanding, as I get older, of why it happened.”

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