Following in the footsteps of nearly every other conference in college sports, the SEC announced late Tuesday afternoon that it will cancel all regular-season conference and non-conference competitions for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year, “due to continuing developments related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).”
The SEC had previously canceled its men’s basketball tournament and canceled competitions and most other athletics activities until April 15, and its release is careful to note that other athletics activities are still canceled only until that date. But this move cancels events that would have been held into late May — the SEC Tournament in baseball, for example, was scheduled to take place in the third week of May in Hoover, Alabama.
And in addition to all regulation competitions, the decision bars schools from holding spring football games and pro days for its NFL Draft-bound athletes.
“This is a difficult day for all of us, and I am especially disappointed for our student-athletes,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “The health and well-being of our entire conference community is an ongoing priority for the SEC as we continue to monitor developments and information about the COVID-19 virus.”
The decision should mean that there will be no SEC champion in any of the so-called spring sports it sponsors — baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s golf, tennis, and track and field — and no postseason champion in gymnastics. Florida’s SEC title in gymnastics would thus be the last one regular-season title won by any SEC program in 2019-20, with South Carolina’s SEC Tournament title being the last SEC crown claimed by any team in competition. (Kentucky, the No. 1 seed for the men’s basketball tournament, was not formally named the league’s tournament champion.)
Florida also competes as a member of the American Athletic Conference in women’s lacrosse, its only sport not sponsored by the SEC; that league canceled its spring sports competition and championships five days ago, though Florida’s lacrosse team previously indicated it will follow the SEC’s rules, which effectively means today’s decision formally ends its season for a second time.
What happens to the hundreds of student-athletes whose seasons just ended remains to be seen, though the NCAA has suggested it will grant eligibility to any student-athlete in a spring sport that wants it, and some have suggested that eligibility also be granted to student-athletes in winter sports.
But it would probably be a good idea to make sure those human beings get through this coronavirus pandemic alive and healthy enough for competition prior to worrying too much about their eligibility for the 2020-21 season.