The spring seasons have come to an end for all Northwestern State sports teams.
The Southland Conference announced Saturday that the league will cancel all remaining spring sports competitions and championship events, effective immediately. The decision was reached by the Conference’s presidential Board of Directors, in consultation with campus athletic directors, in full consideration of the health, safety and well-being of the league’s student-athletes, coaches, administrators, support personnel and fans on the league’s 13 campuses. Southland members have been monitoring national, regional and local developments related to the worldwide COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, and its impact on U.S. professional and collegiate sports, including Thursday’s announcement that NCAA Championship events will be canceled through the spring.
“With all my heart, I was hoping that as a conference and university, we would not have to get to the point of making this decision,” said Northwestern State Director of Athletics Greg Burke. “It has been made, however, meticulously and painstakingly in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of our student-athletes, coaches and support staff, as well as for others associated with our athletic program and, indeed, for the benefit of the greater good.”
The Southland had previously announced the cancelation of all competitions through March 30, including its Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments this week. Now, in addition to the new competition and championship changes, athletic departments have also agreed to prohibit all team activities, organized or voluntary, through March 30. Beyond that date, campus leaders will make determinations on other immediate and longer-term issues, such as team practice opportunities and other activities. Athletic departments and Conference office staff will address future NCAA eligibility issues for current spring sports student-athletes, and other matters of importance to the membership. Further, as with any legislation action, the Conference’s Board of Directors reserves the right to reconsider previous decisions.
On Friday, the NCAA announced “it will be appropriate to grant relief for the use of a season of competition for student-athletes who have participated in spring sports.”
“The Southland Conference’s decision to cancel all spring sports competition, while very difficult, has been made based on what is always the highest priority on any college campus – the well-being and health of its students,” said Northwestern State President Dr. Chris Maggio. “I appreciate the leadership of Commissioner Tom Burnett, and the Southland Board of Directors, for their collaborative deliberation throughout the arduous process of addressing this unprecedented issue. It is certainly a disappointing time for our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans but the health and safety of all is uppermost as we move forward.”
The Southland joins a growing list of NCAA Division I conferences that have canceled spring competitions, including the America East, Atlantic 10, Big 12, Big East, Big West, Colonial, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Northeast, Patriot League, Southwestern Athletic, Summit League and West Coast Conference. Several other conferences, including Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Pac-12, the Sun Belt and the Western Athletic Conference, have suspended competitions indefinitely.
The Southland’s spring sports offerings include baseball, softball, beach volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field. The Southland Bowling League Championship, scheduled for March 19-22, has also been canceled.
Among the spring sports sponsored by the conference, Northwestern State competes in baseball, softball, women’s tennis and men’s and women’s track and field. The NSU Athletic Department will reach out to season ticket holders next week with next steps for refunds and/or deferrals.
“As an Athletic Director who cherishes relationships and connectivity with our student-athletes and who know so many of them and their families on a personal level, it is extremely difficult knowing how emotional and frustrating this news will be to them,” Burke said. “Our student-athletes have worked diligently to give their very best on the field of competition and to represent NSU in a first-class manner, which makes this development all the more disappointing to them and to our coaches, whose livelihood revolves around preparing these young men and women for on- and off-the-field success.”
The Northwestern State athletics Mental Health Committee has been and will continue to be involved and provide guidance regarding the impact this decision can have on NSU student-athletes.
Said Burke: “As a university and a department, we are committed to providing support for our student-athletes through this trying time. Together, we can and will get through this. In the meantime, it is prayerfully hoped that these measures have the impact for which they are intended and do indeed minimize the effects of COVID-19.”