As decisions across the sporting world were made to either suspend, postpone or cancel seasons or games, athletes at Austin College and Southeastern Oklahoma State learned that their respective sports would not continue for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year.
Following a meeting of the league's President's Council, and in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference made the decision to indefinitely suspend all regular season conference and non-conference competition effective Monday, March 16.
Austin College had already cancelled baseball and softball series for the weekend.
“Almost every year, I have someone bring in the quote about playing every day like it's your last because you never know when it will be your last,” AC softball coach Kelly Sylvester tweeted. “My heart hurts for those whose last day came faster than anyone could have ever imagined.”
SCAC leadership will engage in discussions with the NCAA about any and all implications of a suspension in conference competition; specifically, the league will request support for an extra year for all spring sport student-athletes whose seasons were just canceled.
Member institutions still have the ability to decide whether they will continue winter competition, or whether they will suspend all athletics-related activity for the entirety of the spring semester.
“I say this understanding that anything I feel pales in comparison to our (student-athletes), but today may be the toughest of my career” SCAC Commissioner Dwyane Hanberry tweeted. “To (in all likelihood) prematurely end the season for hundreds of student-athletes, no matter how much I trust the reason to do so, absolutely stinks.”
For Southeastern, the decision meant the school's basketball teams, including the conference-winning women's program, would not be able to play in the NCAA Division II Tournament slated to start on Friday.
The Great American Conference Council of Presidents announced an indefinite suspension of the conference's sports activities — practices and competitions — for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year effective immediately.
This decision follows the National Collegiate Athletic Association's cancellation of all championships for the winter and spring seasons due to the COVID-19 health threat. As part of that, both the Southeastern Oklahoma State men's and women's basketball teams had their first-round tournament games, which were to take place in the NCAA Division II Central Regional, cancelled just hours before the Storm women were going to play and a day before the Storm men took the court.
Following Wednesday's NCAA announcement regarding attendance at its championship events, both games were still going to be played but with limited attendance to only essential staff and limited family members.
The top priority for the Great American Conference and its membership is the health of student-athletes, staff, and our campus communities. The conference office will work with the Council of Presidents to monitor all information impacting athletic departments during the remainder of the spring semester.
Additionally, the GAC will work with the NCAA to advocate for all affected conference student-athletes.