With the NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA shuttering in quick succession amid public health concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJCAA followed suit Thursday afternoon, announcing its Division I and Division II men’s and women’s basketball tournaments had been postponed.
Originally set to begin Tuesday, the tournaments now have a tentative start date of April 20. The Division III men’s and women’s tournaments, which were already underway, will accelerate their schedules and wrap up Friday.
The @NJCAA has announced the D1 and D2 men's and women's basketball tournaments have been postponed and will "aim for a tentative start date of April 20."
The @NWF_Raiders women were set to play either Odessa or Chattanooga State on Wednesday in Lubbock.https://t.co/Pll1FjDoSw
Ranked fifth in the country, the Northwest Florida State College women’s basketball team was set to begin its quest for a national championship as a No. 3 seed against either 14th-seeded Odessa or 19th-seeded Chattanooga State at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock, Texas.
“With everything else that’s been going on — the NCAA Division I Power Five schools and everybody else postponing or canceling — I knew it was just a matter of time,” Raider coach Bart Walker said. “It’s disappointing that we can’t play it in its natural setting, but at least they haven’t canceled it. There’s an opportunity maybe to play in April, so we’re still hoping to get out there and play.”
Sporting a nine-game win streak, the Raiders were headed into the tournament hot after claiming the Panhandle Conference outright and besting rival Gulf Coast State 57-55 in overtime this past Saturday for their first Region VIII title since 1996.
“First and foremost, we have to be concerned about the welfare of our student-athletes,” Athletic Director Ramsey Ross said. “I felt like in light of what’s gone on across the country, the NJCAA felt like it was the best decision to postpone it.
“Quite honestly, I’m just pleased that the NJCAA has postponed it instead of canceled it. I did not want to deprive our student athletes of the opportunity to compete for a national championship. That’s why we play. We’ve had a heck of a season, and I’d hate for it to end without that opportunity.”
Spoke with @NWF_Raiders AD @RamseyRoss_NWF about the @NJCAA tournament postponement. He said he's pleased the tourney will continue in April, but in the meantime, the Raiders are working to educate their student athletes about the health risks of #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/EMR4Z9JB7Q— Sam Grubenhoff (@SamGrubenhoff) March 12, 2020
This announcement came before NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships outright late Thursday afternoon.
NCAA cancels remaining winter and spring championships: https://t.co/qzKAS4McEI pic.twitter.com/G6XreZx35E— NCAA (@NCAA) March 12, 2020
The situation in the NJCAA remains fluid, NJCAA President Christopher Parker said in a press release.
“We have two main objectives in this situation — first and foremost is to protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, college personnel, and fans,” Parker said. “Second is to make sure our student-athletes receive the national championship experience that they have worked so hard for."
With NWF State scheduled to begin its Spring Break this coming week, Walker said the Raiders would meet Friday morning to discuss what their plans would be moving forward, while Ross added the athletic department is working to inform its student athletes about the health risks of the virus and preventative measures.
“Right now, we’re trying to educate our student athletes, our coaches on making sure that we take care of ourselves, making sure they make good decisions, washing hands, being very careful because we certainly don’t want them to bring anything back to campus,” Ross said.
Additionally, NWF State announced it would suspend spring competitions until at least March 28 in conjunction with an FCSAA recommendation.
The Raider baseball and softball teams had six games scheduled between Friday and March 28. Whether those games will be rescheduled will be announced at a later date.
"These steps are in line with other athletic associations across the country," Ross said.
"We are looking forward to resuming our springs sports next month. As of now, the main focus is to keep our student athletes safe and healthy. I'd like to commend our student athletes for handling this adverse situation in such a classy and professional manner."