Just after 11 a.m. on Monday, the UConn athletic department announced that it was canceling all competitions for the remainder of the spring season due to the public health crisis caused by COVID-19.
The announcement came after the department announced last Thursday that all spring sports would be suspended indefinitely. This announcement now ends any speculation as to when sports may have resumed.
“Things have been so fluid,” Athletic Director David Benedict said in a conference call on Monday afternoon. “We’re constantly getting new recommendations from the CDC, from the governor’s office, from the federal government, and we’re just reacting … It’s just been something we’ve been thinking about constantly since Friday, and ultimately we got to the place this morning in consulting with a lot of different folks — both on campus, off campus, our coaches — that the best thing to do was to cancel spring sports.”
The NCAA had already announced last week that all spring championships were canceled, and several other schools, including the whole Ivy League, had already canceled all athletics through the end of the academic year rather than just a suspension. UConn became the latest school to do that on Monday.
“There’s been decisions already made within conferences that have announced [spring sports cancellations],” Benedict said. “So I’m not so sure that’s ultimately not going to be the same decision everyone makes.”
As of right now, students are only off campus until April 6, but Benedict said the decision to completely cancel the rest of the season came from CDC guidelines that would make it nearly impossible for competitions to take place.
“The CDC just came out with direction today that you can’t get together with more than 50 people for the next eight weeks,” Benedict said. “So I’m just not sure that you would even be able to have an event within our state because most events if you just count the participants in the event, you’re gonna be more than 50 … Based on the fluidity of the changes in policies and in some cases executive orders, we wouldn’t be able to facilitate competitions.”
Benedict said the top priority right now is the student-athletes and how this situation is impacting them. The affected sports are baseball, softball, women’s lacrosse, rowing, golf, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s track and field.
“Some of our student-athletes have worked their entire careers to put themselves in the positions that they’re in,” Benedict said. “That’s who it’s really hard for. I can’t imagine what some of them are feeling like having the season taken away. I just think it’s immeasurable.”
At the point of cancellation, the baseball team was 8-5 and on a five-game winning streak. The softball team was enjoying one of its best starts in program history at 16-5. The women’s lacrosse team started a successful 5-2. The men’s tennis team had lost its first 13 competitions of 2020, while the women’s team was 3-7. The golf team had just finished eighth out of 15 teams in its most recent event. The track and field teams, as well as the rowing team, had yet to start their spring competitions.
Specifically for the baseball team, head coach Jim Penders said the uncertainty of the last few days has been really difficult for everyone to deal with.
“I think we were all kind of holding out hope that we’d still be able to resume our season,” Penders said. “That may have been somewhat naive, but you’re still holding on as long as it’s suspended, you’re saying we got a chance. It was like a long, long rain delay.”
Once it was official that the season was over, Penders said he had to have some tough conversations, especially with the seniors on the team, but he said everyone is supporting each other.
“These kids, they give everything they’ve got to it every day,” Penders said. “That’s what makes it so difficult to have it end prematurely.”
Athletes for all these spring sports will likely be awarded another year of eligibility, as announced by the NCAA on Friday.
Division I Council Coordination Committee agrees eligibility relief is appropriate for spring sports: pic.twitter.com/u7hwYOyTDV
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) March 13, 2020
Benedict said he is in support of that and he feels that issues with possible scholarship backlogs will be worked out.
“I’m going to be supportive of the student-athlete, and if student athletes feel like they were deprived — and in some cases they absolutely were — of competition, we should be open-minded to that,” Benedict said.
With this announcement, UConn’s time in the American Athletic Conference is officially over. The Huskies will join the Big East for all sports that the conference offers on July 1.