On Monday (March 16) the National Junior College Athletic Association announced that all upcoming basketball championships as well as spring competition would be canceled, effective immediately, due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.
"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," stated Dr. Christopher Parker, NJCAA President & CEO said in a press release. "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."
That is just three days after they decided to suspend all competition until Friday, April 3.
The NJCAA's announcement was made in the wake of many other major organizations (NBA, NHL, MLB and the NCAA) suspending contests and canceling entire seasons.
“There's a lot of mixed emotions about the whole thing. It all happened so fast," said Ellsworth Community College Athletic Director Nate Forsyth. "It's been a whirlwind. The NBA canceled its season and then the biggest news was when the NCAA canceled the basketball tournament. We could hear people talking about it in the stands. It's very impactful in the sport world. And now it is hitting home for us. I feel bad for the student-athletes."
There is student housing available to those that need it, but student-athletes are encouraged to go home if they are able. Along with baseball and softball, this also affects spring football.
The Panther baseball team played 20 games this season and softball 11 games.
ECC Head Baseball Coach Samuel Vega was in the midst of his first season at the helm for the Panthers, who were 4-16 at the time the season was wiped out.
"The players are disappointed but they also understand the seriousness of the situation," Vega said. "We are sad because you put a lot of hard work in the last eight months and it's just taken away. But safety has to be the first issue."
Vega said in the near future, he would be conducting staff meetings to start preparing for next season.
"That's all we can do is move forward. The season is over and we are not going to get it back," Vega said.
The one positive is the athletes are not losing a year of eligibility. They have the potential to come back next year.
Along with all competition being canceled, there will be no on and off-campus recruiting for any sport until Wednesday, April 15 when further evaluation will be assessed at that time.
"We will have to do old school recruiting over the phone," Forsyth said. "I'm not surprised by anything anymore. When the CDC came out and said no gatherings with more than 50 people, we knew where it was heading."