As concerns surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to grow, the NCAA has canceled all winter and spring championship events, including March Madness, and the America East Conference (AE) quickly followed suit, announcing Thursday evening that all AE competitions were canceled for the remainder of the academic year. With that, Binghamton’s spring sports seasons are over, and there will be no more BU athletics events for the rest of the semester.
“Effective immediately, all competition and practices for all teams and individual student-athletes at America East Conference institutions have been canceled for the rest of this academic year, including any spring sport events that occur beyond the academic year,” read a statement from the AE. “The decision was made in light of the recent developments, including the cancellation of all NCAA winter and spring championships, regarding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). This is a proactive decision to protect the health, safety and well-being of everyone.”
The decision meant that 10 of Binghamton’s teams saw their seasons come to a premature ending. Baseball, softball, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, the track and field teams, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, golf and wrestling all had their competitions canceled.
“The welfare of our student-athletes, staff and fans remains our top priority,” said BU Director of Athletics Patrick Elliott, per bubearcats.com.
Prior to the AE’s announcement, all the road games Binghamton’s teams were scheduled to compete in this weekend were canceled as a result of decisions made by various schools and conferences. No home games were scheduled to be played.
In the short term, wrestling may be the team most affected, as redshirt sophomores Lou DePrez and Zack Trampe were set to compete at the 2020 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships next week. After winning Binghamton’s second-ever Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) individual title last weekend, DePrez was set to enter the tournament seeded fourth in a wide-open 184-pound race. He was among the favorites to win and had a legitimate chance to become Binghamton’s first-ever national champion.
Among the spring sports, both baseball and softball were expected to be in competition for a conference title. Baseball was picked first in the AE coaches’ poll, and softball was among the favorites and had been selected to host the AE tournament.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that all SUNY schools will move to distance learning by Thursday, March 19. The state also decided to allow athletics events at SUNY schools to continue as planned for the immediate future without spectators. Although no official state government or SUNY policies have changed regarding athletics, some schools and conferences had made their own decisions on the matter prior to the AE announcement.
Several geographically similar mid-major conferences have called off athletics events in the past few days. The Ivy League was the first conference to suspend all of its spring sports; thus, the Binghamton women’s lacrosse team’s scheduled road trip to Harvard was the first BU athletics cancellation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Patriot League also canceled all spring athletics competitions on Thursday morning, and several other leagues and schools followed suit throughout the day. UMBC was the first AE school to suspend competition.
Prior to canceling all sports for the remainder of the semester, the AE, along with every league in the country with basketball tournaments still in progress, canceled its conference championship games. The games were set for Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14. The league initially announced its plans to hold the title games without spectators but made the decision to cancel just hours later in the midst of a flurry of cancellations from conferences around the country on Thursday morning.
“The decision was made in consultation with the conference’s leadership in light of the recent developments regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” read a statement from the AE at the time. “This is a proactive decision to protect the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and everyone on our campuses.”
In addition to the NCAA, the NHL, NBA and MLB all suspended competition indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak. The suspensions are unprecedented in America’s sports history.