College, pro sports seasons in limbo because of COVID-19 related cancellations, suspensions

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Updated 3 p.m. Friday

The growing COVID-19 pandemic had conferences and other sports organizations scheduling events without fans in the stands. Now, they are being suspended or even canceled, and the end result is no Division I sports in Louisiana for at least the next couple of weeks or longer.

Every conference basketball tournament scheduled for this weekend – including the Sun Belt Conference tournament at Smoothie King Center, the Southeastern Conference, American Athletic Conference, Southland, SWAC and Conference USA – has now been canceled.

Hours after those tournaments canceled, the NCAA announced it was canceling all winter and spring championships, including the men’s and women’s basketball championships and the College World Series. The Women’s Final Four was scheduled for April 3-5 at the Smoothie King Center.

The SEC, American, C-USA, Southland, Sun Belt and SWAC are among the conferences who have suspended spring sports schedules for at least two weeks. The SEC and Southland will not resume until March 30 at the soonest, the SWAC on March 31 and the American, C-USA and Sun Belt are not listing an end date, calling the suspensions “until further notice” or “indefinite.”

With the news of the NCAA canceling championship events for the spring, it seems possible that entire spring seasons may be canceled.

On the professional side, Major League Rugby – of which the NOLA Gold is affiliated – joined Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer in suspending activity.  MLR’s suspension is for the next for 30 days. The Gold was scheduled to play at Utah Friday night.

The PGA Tour initially said it would continue to play without fans at The PLAYERS Championship through the Valero Texas Open in early April, but canceled events across all its tours late Thursday.

The Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana in Avondale is the last weekend of April and it’s not yet known if that will be impacted, but next week’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open in Lafayette and the following week’s new stop in Lake Charles on the Korn Ferry Tour are now canceled.

While the NFL is not in season, its league year – and free agency – is scheduled to begin this weekend. There has not been word on whether that will change, but the league did announce its annual meeting March 29-April 1 has been canceled.

In other postponements, the Touchdown Club of New Orleans has cancelled its annual awards banquet, scheduled for Saturday night at the Windsor Court, and the Harlem Globetrotters postponed their scheduled Thursday night event at the University Center in Hammond.

The sudden cancellations created some bizarre situations for area schools.

At the opening round of the Southland women’s tournament in Katy, Texas, teams from the University of New Orleans and Southeastern Louisiana University warmed up and starting lineups were introduced before proceedings were halted. About 20 minutes later, the remainder of the men’s and women’s tournaments were canceled.

LSU baseball players were loading their bags on the bus for a trip to Ole Miss for the Tigers’ SEC-opening series when they were called into a meeting, informing them of the cancellation.

The SEC followed up Friday with an announcement suspending all team activities in every sport through April 15.

The cancellations come on the heels of the NBA’s decision to suspend its season Wednesday night after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier Thursday, news broke that Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, had also tested positive.

Not every event has been canceled, though. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s boys basketball championships in Lake Charles and on campus sites are still scheduled to be played.

Five semifinal games in Lake Charles were played Thursday and 12 state championship games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday – seven in Lake Charles and five at campus sites, including the Division IV title game at Crescent City Christian in Metairie Friday night.

 

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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