Softball response to coronavirus

Clemson's new ballpark and others across the nation could be without fans as colleges respond to coronavirus (Clemson photo)


Cancellations, Spectator Limits Mark Softball’s Response To Coronavirus


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UPDATE: 12:30 ET, 3/13/2020 | Big West cancels spring competitions and championships 

Statement from the Big West:

“The Big West Board of Directors today moved from indefinitely suspending to canceling all spring conference and non-conference competition and championship events for the 2020 season. This action was taken following yesterday’s NCAA announcement below canceling all 2020 spring championships.”

UPDATE: 3:10 ET, 3/12/2020 | ACC Suspends all athletic related activities

Statement from the Atlantic Coast Conference:
“The Atlantic Coast Conference has suspended all athletic related activities including all competition, formal and organized practice, recruiting and participation in NCAA championships until further notice. The decision was made following consultation with the league’s presidents and athletic directors to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.”

Statement from ACC Commissioner John Swofford:
“This is unchartered territory and the health and safety of our student-athletes and institutions remains our top priority. This decision is aimed to protect from the further spread of COVID-19.”

UPDATE: 2:25 PM ET, 3/12/2020 | Big West suspends all competition 

“The Big West Conference announced today that it is indefinitely suspending all spring conference and non-conference competition, effective immediately.”

The main priority of the Big West Conference continues to be the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus”

UPDATE: 2:12 PM ET, 3/12/2020 | Missouri Valley Conference suspends all spring sports contents

In a statement issued by the Missouri Valley Conference: “The Missouri Valley Conference announced today that it has canceled the MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament scheduled to begin today at TaxSlayer Center in Moline, Ill.  In addition, the MVC has announced that all Conference spring sports contests have been suspended through March 30, effective immediately.”

Update 1:16 PM ET. 3/12/2020| Southland suspends spring sports competition

“Taking precautions due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Southland Conference has announced it is suspending all spring sports competition effective immediately and through March 30.

This includes all conference and non-conference contests for the Southland’s spring sports. Practices are still up to each institution, including spring football. Conference and campus administrators will convene in the coming weeks to determine exact return-to-competition arrangements and other issues.”

UPDATE: 1:00 PM ET, 3/12/2020 | WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West and Colonial Athletic Association suspend all spring competitions until further notice

UPDATE: 12:42 PM ET, 3/12/2020 | SEC suspends regular-season competition

“Based on the latest developments and the continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Southeastern Conference today announced the suspension of regular season competition for teams in all sports on SEC campuses, as well SEC championship events, until March 30.”

UPDATE: 12:33 PM ET, 3/12/2020 | Pac-12 cancels sports events

The Pac-12 Conference has made decision to cancel “all Pac-12 sport competitions and Pac-12 Championship events, effective immediately, until further notice. This decision has been made in consultation with our member universities in an effort to limit the spread of the virus and in the interest of he healthy and safety of our student-athletes, campus personnel, working and event personnel, and all those who attend Pac-12 events.”

UPDATE: 11:00 AM ET, 3/12/2020 | Patriot League to cancel all spring practices and competitions

The Patriot League has released a statement to cancel all spring athletics practices and competitions through the remainder of the year. The decision will be effective Monday, March 16.

In a statement, the Patriots League’s Council of Presidents announced: “Recognizing that the health and safety of our students and broader communities is our priority, and based on the ongoing spread of COVID 19 (2019 novel Coronavirus), the Patriot League Council of Presidents has made the difficult and challenging decision to cancel all spring athletics practices and competitions through the remainder of the academic year.

The majority of Patriot League institutions have announced a temporary or semester-long transition to remote learning.  While we recognize the deep disappointment that will be felt by our student-athletes, coaches, and communities, a continuation of spring seasons is untenable.

Individual institutions will decide the championship participation status of winter teams and student-athletes who have qualified.”

UPDATE: 8:14 AM ET, 3/12/2020 | USA Softball postpones tour stop games

USA Softball has postponed the Seattle, Hillsboro and Eugene (Ore.) “Stand Beside Her” tour stops in the lead up to the Olympic Games.

In a statement, USA Softball said: “While we understand the disappointment that may come with this decision, this decision was made in the best interest of the health and safety of our athletes, staff, fans and the softball community.

“We will continue to monitor the situation surrounding the COVID-19 and will make necessary changes to keep us all safe and healthy. As the situation continues to develop, USA Softball will do our best to continue to keep our community informed.”

UPDATE: 10:26 ET, 3/11/2020 | Pac-12 announces attendance restrictions

The Pac-12 Conference announced the men’s basketball tournament, all sport competitions, and tournaments will be restricted to essential staff until further notice.

The Pac-12 issued a statement:

“The Pac-12 Conference will conduct the remainder of our Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, beginning with the Thursday, March 12, 2020 sessions, with only essential staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and limited family and friends in attendance.  This decision has been made based upon new information, including the recommendation of the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel.  Similar limited fan policies will apply to all Pac-12 sport competitions and Pac-12 Championship events until further notice.”

UPDATE: 9:22 ET, 3/11/2020 | SEC announces attendance restrictions 

The Southeastern Conference announced that all regular season contests in all sports on SEC campuses and SEC Championship events will be conducted with only essential staff, limited family and credentialed media in attendance beginning Thursday, March 12 through at least March 30. After that time, the conference and its member universities will re-evaluate conditions.

The SEC issued a statement from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey:

“In light of recent developments beyond our control related to the spread of the coronavirus, including a recommendation from the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, and after consultation with our member universities, we have made the difficult decision to hold the 2020 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville without spectators beginning with games of Thursday, March 12. Effective immediately, the policy will also apply to other SEC Championship events and on-campus regular season games scheduled through at least the end of March.”

UPDATE: 7:57 ET, 3/11/2020 | Cal State Fullerton Events Without Spectators

All home baseball, softball and if possible tennis events will be streamed live.

“Based on the discussions with the campus administration, the recommendation from the NCAA and out of an abundance of caution, attendance at all Cal State Fullerton Athletics home events will be limited to essential personnel only until further notice. Essential personnel are defined as student-athletes, coaches, team trainers and medical personnel, game officials, operational and administrative staff, and credentialed media members. Spectators who have pre-purchased tickets for scheduled events during this time period may contact the Athletics Ticket Office via phone or email [email protected]. All home baseball and softball games will be available to watch on BigWest.TV. ”

UPDATE: 7:11 ET, 3/11/2020 | Big Ten announces all competitions will be limited to essential personnel and immediate family members.

“The Big Ten Conference announced this evening that beginning Thursday, March 12, 2020, attendance at all Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament games will be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and Conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams.

Additionally, all further Big Ten Conference winter and spring sport competitions, including championship/tournament events, will also be limited to student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and Conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media, and immediate family members of the participating teams.”

UPDATE: 5:46 ET, 3/11/2020

More than 100 universities have either moved to remote instruction or suspended classes altogether as part of the efforts to contain the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and the echoes of those decisions are now being felt in college softball.

A good number of schools have already made changes to their schedules, canceling or postponing games. The Ivy League took the most dramatic step yet by calling off all athletic competition for the remainder of the school year.

“In accordance with the guidance of public health and medical professionals, several Ivy League institutions have announced that students will not return to campus after spring break, and classes will be held virtually during the semester,” the league said in a statement. “Given this situation, it is not feasible for practice and competition to continue.”

As the United States ramps up its response to COVID-19, colleges and universities are on the front lines as places where thousands of people live in close proximity to one another. “The dorms are cruise ships,” one Harvard official told MSNBC as the school decided to ask students to move out by this weekend.

So far, most schools have canceled “face-to-face instruction” and moved to online/remote instruction for at least the next couple of weeks. Some took more significant steps. Bryan Alexander, a higher education consultant and instructor at Georgetown, is tracking university responses to coronavirus and estimated late Tuesday that closures or moves to remote instruction affect more than 1.3 million college students.

Central Connecticut State canceled all athletics activities through at least April 6, with a softball matchup against Manhattan on Wednesday one of the first casualties.

Fordham hasn’t canceled any games yet, but the school did issue a statement on Monday that its home athletic events will be closed to spectators through the end of March due to coronavirus. Like other schools, it’s encouraging people to follow the games by radio or streaming video. The Rams are scheduled to play in a three-team tournament in Charleston, S.C., this weekend, with College of Charleston and UNC Greensboro. At least so far, no one has announced any changes to the schedule there.

LaSalle announced on Wednesday that it would not travel to the East Carolina Purple & Gold Invitational this weekend, though the school did not specifically cite coronavirus in its decision.

The NCAA is leaving decisions about how to proceed to individual conferences and schools in their response to COVID-19. But it did announce on Wednesday that events should proceed without fans for the foreseeable future.

The NCAA issued a statement from president Mark Emmert: “Based on (the NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel’s) advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance. While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States. This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

Schools are taking significant steps to limit “social contact” among their students, usually in response to coronavirus cases reported in close proximity to their campuses, or in some cases among the student body.

Vanderbilt, for example, has at least one student who has tested positive for coronavirus and several others who were exposed to the virus. Maxwell Schulman, 21, contracted the virus while on spring break in Spain. While he is recovering at home, some students who were exposed to the virus did return to campus.

“We had two friends who were coming on the trip that decided to cancel because they were scared about coronavirus,” Schulman told WSMV-TV of Nashville. “We all made jokes about it, we thought they were idiots. Uh, so it turns out we were the idiots.”

Vanderbilt has canceled classes for the rest of this week, and in-person classes for the remainder of March. The university also canceled all group gatherings of any kind — except athletics — through the end of April. Like other schools, Vandy also set up a coronavirus response section on the university website to provide resources for students, employees and parents.

The school announced Wednesday that while it had not made any changes to athletic schedules, it was implementing guidelines to try to limit the transmission of disease. Vanderbilt won’t sell any concessions or beverages, will eliminate in-game promotions and giveaways, and will urge fans to utilize practices such as social distancing.

Coronavirus is having a more profound impact on the West Coast, where more cases have been reported. Santa Clara County in California has restricted any gatherings of more than 1,000 people, though it is not clear yet how that could affect sporting events.

Santa Clara announced on Tuesday a shift to virtual classes, and asked students to go home until at least April 13. The school also announced that it would cancel all campus events. “Based on guidance from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, all university-sponsored events with 150+ guests will be altered, postponed or canceled through April 19, at which time we will reevaluate this restriction,” the school said in a statement.

Stanford, which is also in Santa Clara County, has also asked students to go home and “not plan to return to campus until further notice.” The school has not called off any athletic events yet, but has banned the public from attending through at least May 15.

In Southern California, UCLA and USC both announced Tuesday they are closing athletic events to anyone outside of essential personnel, family of the players and media. UCLA announced the restrictions will be in place until at least April 11, while USC’s limitations are through March 29. UC Santa Barbara announced it will hold all sporting events “without fans in attendance for the foreseeable future” in a statement that also included the university switching to remote instruction through at least the end of April.

Washington has been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., and schools there are also implementing significant changes.

Seattle University softball altered its schedule for this weekend after Stony Brook and Portland State decided not to travel due to concerns related to coronavirus. The Redhawks will now host Utah in a single game in the 2020 home opener on Thursday, and are scheduled to go to California Baptist to begin WAC action on March 20.

Washington has not lost any softball games yet, but tennis matches have been canceled as visiting teams elected not to travel to Seattle. The school stopped selling tickets to athletic events in anticipation of more restrictive policies in the days ahead, and sure enough, Washington governor Jay Inslee announced late Tuesday that all events should be limited to more than 250 people.

The university announced the next day that it would restrict spectators at home events to adhere to this new policy. “Our hearts go out to those impacted by COVID-19, and we and our student athletes understand the critical importance of protecting those most susceptible to the virus,” the school said in a statement.

Attendance at all home athletic events is restricted to players, coaches, families, recruits and essential personnel only, which includes media, until further notice.

Here’s a list of programs not allowing the general public to attend games for now, or have cancelled games:

  • Alabama (thru March 30)
  • Arizona (no general fans)
  • Arizona State (no general fans)
  • Arkansas (thru March 30)
  • Auburn (thru March 30)
  • Brown (cancelled)
  • California (no general fans)
  • Central Connecticut State (cancelled thru April 6)
  • Columbia (cancelled)
  • Cornell (cancelled)
  • CS Northridge (no general fans thru April 19)
  • Dartmouth (cancelled)
  • Fl0rida (thru March 30)
  • Fordham (thru March 30)
  • Georgia (thru March 30)
  • Harvard (cancelled)
  • Illinois (no general fans)
  • Indiana (no general fans)
  • Iowa (no general fans)
  • Kentucky (thru March 30)
  • LSU (thru March 30)
  • Manhattan (cancelled thru March 23)
  • Maryland (no general fans)
  • Michigan (no general fans)
  • Michigan State (no general fans)
  • Minnesota (no general fans)
  • Mississippi State (thru March 30)
  • Missouri (thru March 30)
  • Nebraska (no general fans)
  • Nevada (no general fans)
  • Northwestern (no general fans)
  • Ohio State (no general fans)
  • Ole Miss (thru March 30)
  • Oregon (no general fans)
  • Oregon State (no general fans)
  • Penn State (no general fans)
  • Pennsylvania (cancelled)
  • Princeton (cancelled)
  • Rhode Island (no general fans thru April 4)
  • Rutgers (no general fans)
  • South Carolina (thru March 30)
  • Stanford (no general fans thru May 15)
  • Texas (thru March 22)
  • Texas A&M (thru March 30)
  • Tulane (no general fans)
  • UC Davis (no general fans)
  • UC Santa Barbara (no general fans)
  • UCLA (no general fans thru April 10)
  • UNLV (no general fans)
  • Utah (no general fans)
  • Washington (no general fans)
  • Washington State (no general fans)
  • Yale (cancelled)

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