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Southern Conference suspends athletic competition

Joe Avento • Updated Mar 12, 2020 at 8:05 PM

The Southern Conference announced Thursday night that all intercollegiate athletic competition for its schools has been suspended until March 30 because of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The move was made by the conference at the recommendation of the league’s Council of Presidents and athletic directors. Commissioner Jim Schaus made the announcement Thursday night.

“Our membership feels that it is imperative to protect the health and welfare of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans by suspending athletic competition due to this very serious virus,” Schaus said.

The decision was reached with the input of NCAA, conference and school administrators.

The SoCon said it will “closely monitor the situation, as well as national, state and local policies regarding the coronavirus, and re-evaluate the potential for resumption of competition.”

The East Tennessee State baseball team was on the road Thursday to play at UNC-Wilmington when it received a call that UNCW had suspended all athletic activity. The Bucs turned around and drove home before heading out to the practice field.

That’s where they were when word came down that the NCAA had canceled all winter and spring championships, meaning the College World Series and its associated regionals will not be played. ETSU was 12-3 with a win over Clemson to its credit at the time of the announcement.

The school’s women’s tennis team was already in Florida for three matches that won’t be played. The men’s tennis team was to play host to Mercer on Friday and Wofford on Saturday.

The women’s golf team was about to leave for a tournament but got word before it left.

The softball team was scheduled to host a tournament with Radford and Tennessee Tech beginning Friday. At least one of the visiting teams was reportedly already in town.

The ETSU football could be affected as well. Spring practice was supposed to begin March 24 and that might still go on since the suspension specifically mentioned “competition.” The spring game is scheduled for April 18.

“This is a hard day,” ETSU Athletic Director Scott Carter said. “We’re all disappointed, but I think for the greater good, if this is what it takes for us to be healthy and be safe and protect one another, then so be it.

“A re-evaluation can take place in the proper time with the medical folks, and the powers that be will know what the situation is. Hopefully that can give our athletes some hope that maybe there will be a semester for competition. None of us know what the next several weeks are going to look like.”

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