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Coronavirus concerns wreak havoc on national/local sports world

AP Photo by Charlie Riedel

Fans leave the Sprint Center after the remaining NCAA college basketball games after in the Big 12 Conference tournament were canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo.
AP Photo by Charlie Riedel Fans leave the Sprint Center after the remaining NCAA college basketball games after in the Big 12 Conference tournament were canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo.

The sports world was rocked to its core over the weekend as concerns about the Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, led to the cancellation or postponement of just about every planned sporting event in America.

To say it all started on Wednesday would be quite naive, but the sporting world certainly saw a huge bump in Corona concerns when Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus before tip-off Utah’s game against Oklahoma City.

The National Basketball Association decided to suspend game play on Wednesday night until further notice. Games that were ready to tip off were abruptly called off, sending fans home, and the first major domino had fallen.

Meanwhile in Indianapolis, Indiana, an ill Fred Hoiberg sat slumped in his chair at the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament. The former Iowa State Cyclones and Chicago Bulls coach fell ill shortly before the game, and after being cleared by a team doctor, decided to coach his Nebraska Cornhuskers in their opening game. With four minutes to go in the Cornhuskers’ 89-64 loss, Hoiberg went back to the locker room, a short pit stop on the way to the hospital and his team was temporarily quaranteened in the locker rooms. In that same building, the Iowa Hawkeyes and seven other Big Ten teams were set to play in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

A glimmer of hope rose up late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning as it was revealed Hoiberg was diagnosed with Influenza, not COVID-19, and for the time being, the Big Ten and other major college basketball tournaments were set to play on despite the arising chaos. That sentiment didn’t last long.

Then came what could go down in the sporting world as Black Thursday. On Thursday morning, just as Big Ten foes Rutgers and Michigan were getting set to play their quarterfinal game, one that wa meant to lead into Iowa’s quarterfinal showdown with Minnesota, the major conferences began to cancel their tournaments. One by one, major conferences like the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC were pulling players off the court and getting fans out of the stands.

The last remaining major college basketball conference to close its doors was the Big East. It took until halftime the opening game, one between eighth-seeded St. John’s and top-seeded Creighton, before the call was made. St. John’s led the game 38-35 at halftime, but the two teams never stepped on the court again.

Soon after, on Thursday afternoon, the major bombshell of the day was announced. March Madness would not happen. The 2020 NCAA basketball tournament, one of the biggest sporting events to happen in the United States, was canceled, as was the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, and the NCAA wrestling tournament, in which the Iowa Hawkeye grapplers were favored to win a national championship. All three major tournaments were previously said to be played in front of a limited fan base.

Throughout Thursday and Friday, every sporting event you could think of was canceling major events. Everywhere from the NAIA women’s basketball tournament, which was set to feature former Iowa Wesleyan coach Steve Williamson and the William Penn Statesmen, to NASCAR races, to Major League Baseball spring training games were eliminated.

Not only were winter sports canceled, but spring sports too. The NCAA announced the cancellation of all spring sports championships, which trickled right down to the athletics at IW, where the track, baseball and softball teams were just getting their feet wet in the 2020 campaign.

Officially, IW has postponed sports until April 4, but there is no telling whether or not any college baseball, softball or track and field will take place this spring.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association chose to finish their state boys basketball tournaments, with all four classes holding their championship games in front of a very limited fan base on Friday night. Our neighbors to the East, Illinois, canceled their state tournaments, ending the high school basketball season with no champions.

The IAHSAA spring sports schedule is completely up in the air. The first practices for tennis, golf and soccer are set to begin today (Monday), and the indoor track season is already up and running, although a number of indoor meets around the state have already been canceled.

In jeopardy of cancellation are all spring and summer sports. Depending on the speed of the spread and the reactions from the governing bodies, the state of Iowa might not see a soccer game, a tennis meet, a golf meet or another track meet. Everything is in question as the state, and the country, waits to see the impact of COVID-19.

The Southeast Iowa Union will keep readers updated on further postponements and cancellations of high school and college sports in the area. With hope, The Union also will be able to bring you coverage of the 2020 spring and summer sports seasons.