College World Series among spring events axed by virus

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournaments shook the nation Thursday, but more than two dozen other men’s and women’s championships won’t be contested this winter and spring, either — and that doesn’t include all the sports in Divisions II and III.

The biggest of those events is baseball’s College World Series, which will not be held for the first time since 1946.

Omaha has hosted the baseball championship every year since 1950. The CWS has a $70 million annual impact on the local economy each year and produces some 10 days of programming inventory for ESPN. This year’s CWS was scheduled for June 13-24.

“Devastating. Stunning,” UCLA coach John Savage said. “I feel for all the players. I feel for the coaches. I feel for all the programs that work so hard through the fall and January, and to have such a decision to go down so quickly is just really hard to imagine. I feel for the seniors across the country. It’s just a really, really sad day.”

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The eight-team College World Series is held each year at TD Ameritrade Park and is the culmination of the Division I baseball tournament, the No. 2 revenue producer for the NCAA. The event draws more than 300,000 fans per year from across the country and is one of Omaha’s most anticipated events of the year.

NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships because of the public health threat posed by the spread of the new coronavirus.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

The wrestling championships were to be held March 19-21 at 60,000-seat U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It was going to be the first time the event was held in a football stadium, and the total attendance record of 113,743 was expected to be shattered.

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The women’s ice hockey tournament was scheduled to end March 20 and 22 in Boston, and the men’s Frozen Four was set for April 9 and 11 in Detroit.

Besides the College World Series, the top spring sport championships canceled were the men’s and women’s track and field June 10-13 in Austin, Texas; softball’s Women’s College World Series May 28-June 3 in Oklahoma City; men’s lacrosse final four May 28 and 30 in East Hartford, Connecticut; and the women’s lacrosse championship May 22 and 24 in Baltimore.

The NCAA’s decision applies only to championship events. Individual conferences and schools can decide for themselves whether they want to continue their regular seasons.

The Big Ten, following the Ivy League’s move on Wednesday, announced there would be no more spring sport competitions this year. The Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12 suspended competition indefinitely, and the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference suspended play until the end of the month.

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The Pac-12’s Stanford announced separately that its winter and spring sports teams are done for the season.

ESPN college baseball analyst Kyle Peterson, who grew up in Omaha and pitched for Stanford in the CWS in 1995 and ’97, said the NCAA’s decision to cancel the College World Series was rash.

“I don’t understand why we’re canceling something that at this point is 3 1/2 months out,” Peterson said. “That, to me, I disagree with. I don’t disagree with the concern associated with this because I think it’s entirely warranted. Anything for the next 30-60 days, whatever the time frame is that we can understand what we’re dealing with, that’s what we all need to do as a country. Middle of June seemed unnecessary at this point.”

Jack Diesing Jr., chairman of the local organizing committee for the College World Series, said it was a prudent decision by the NCAA considering there is regional and super regional competition in the two weeks leading to the CWS.

“In order to qualify, you have to travel around and play games and people are going to be there,” Diesing said. “Out of an abundance of caution, let’s not take any chances of unduly exposing the student-athlete or the fans to potential sickness.”