Continued concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic have led to some difficult decisions across the sports landscape, which have trickled down from the professional side, to college and even the high-school and junior high level, including schools and teams here locally.
The sports world has basically come to a standstill as a result of leagues and organizations suspending and in some cases cancelling sports seasons, some of which had just begun or were about to begin.
The most impacted at this point locally is Lincoln Trail College, who just recently had the remainder of their spring sports cancelled, as a result of a decision from the NJCAA.
"Following the recent recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NJCAA has made the difficult decision to cancel all upcoming basketball championships as well as spring competition, effective immediately," a press release issued Monday said.
While obviously disappointing, it also seemed to be the most logical course of action, according to LTC President Ryan Gower.
"The decision to cancel the spring season for our athletes as incredibly difficult," Gower said. "These young men and women have worked so hard to be able to compete at this level. Presidents from seven GRAC (Great Rivers Athletic Conference) schools consulted on this and felt that this was the best course of action with the well-being of our athletes, other students and local communitites in mind."
"In light of the progressive evolvement of the COVID-19 situation, the NJCAA has decided to end all competition for the remainder of the academic year," NJCAA President & CEO Dr. Christopher Parker said. "As an association, the NJCAA exhausted all possible avenues to potentially postpone competition for both upcoming basketball championships and spring sport competition. We believe following the recommendations of the CDC is in the best interest of our member colleges and our student-athletes."
The release continues, saying that spring competition includes all practices, regular season, postseason, and national championship play.
Regarding eligibility for spring sports, no spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled at a member college in 2020 will be charged a year of participation.
Along with the cancellation of competition, all on and off-campus recruiting for all sports will be halted until April 15, with further evaluation to be assessed at that point in time.
The NJCAA will explore the opportunity to expand allowable Letters of Intent for spring sports for both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years under the recommendation of the NJCAA Eligibility Committee.
The NJCAA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as more information becomes available.
In addition, many other local teams have been impacted by the cancellation of postseason tournaments, namely Nuttall Middle School's eighth grade volleyball team - which saw their season halted prior to the regional championship game - and the Robinson High School Scholastic Bowl team that had won a Regional and were preparing to compete at the Sectional level, as well as Robinson sophomore Emily McColpin, who was to participate in the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Girls' State Finals over the weekend.
"We appreciate the patience and understanding that we have received from everyone involved in this process over the past 72 hours," IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a press release. "We have stressed the fluidity of this situation and have been transparent about the possibility that a suspension or cancellation could occur. While we had support from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Peoria City/County Health Department to continue our events with limited spectators, it has become untenable to continue the events among our member schools. Multiple schools who are participating or hosting these sports and activities have been forced to withdraw from those roles, clarifying the need for the IHSA to take definitive action. The Board considered suspending the events, but after deliberate discussion, did not believe that was a realistic option within the timeline. We feel for everyone who has been impacted, but must put the health and safety of all involved ahead of these events."
"Since the last release the IESA sent concerning the suspension of the IESA state volleyball series due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility of a re-scheduling if the situation would allow, much has changed locally, statewide, nationally, and globally," IESA Executive Director Steve Endsley said in a press release Sunday. "The following information was sent literally minutes before we were notified Governor Pritzker mandated that all schools must close from March 17-31. To that end, even if we would have been able to get things rescheduled, the Governor's mandate would have made an already very difficult process to reschedule, even more difficult. In addition, we have notified the entire membership that the remaining IESA activities for the 2019-20 school year - Bowling, Music Organizational Contests, Scholastic Bowl and Track & Field - are planned to be conducted as scheduled. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will communicate the status of the state series for our membership as we get closer to each event."
In conjunction with that thought, the IHSA and IESA spring sports schedules are currently on hold as well due to the state of Illinois mandating the closure of schools for a minimum of two weeks, while the suspension of the season could last longer should the governing bodies adhere to the recent CDC recommendation.
Also affected at the local and national level is Little League Baseball. Little League International issued a request last week that all of their leagues across the world suspend operations until at least April 6, then sent out a follow up request to all leagues Monday to extend the suspension to at least May 11. Robinson Community Little League had obliged with the original request to halt all activities, but whether or not they would extend the suspension was not known as of press time.