USF Athletics one of many in the sports world indefinitely suspended due to coronavirus

The AAC, and in turn USF Athletics, is suspending all spring sports indefinitely due to the novel coronavirus global pandemic, conference commissioner Mike Aresco announced Thursday afternoon.

The move is effectively immediately and affects baseball, softball, tennis and golf events scheduled for this weekend. The last event before the suspension was a women’s tennis match at home against James Madison on Thursday afternoon.

Ticket holders will automatically be refunded by USF Athletics to the form of payment used for the original purchase.

The suspension comes one day after all 12 Florida public universities were directed to move classes to online instruction as soon as possible, with USF’s transition coming after next week’s spring break.

Prior to the AAC’s suspension, USF initially was planning on continuing to play all home games with only teams, essential staff, media and limited family present.

USF football had already canceled its final practice before the break earlier Thursday. The status of the rest of USF’s spring practices, which were scheduled to resume March 23, as well as April 18’s spring game, is still being evaluated, according to a USF release.

The move to suspend all sports comes several hours after the AAC canceled its men’s basketball conference tournament approximately an hour before it was supposed to tip off with a matchup between USF and UCF.

The ACC, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big 12, Big West, Conference USA, MAC, PAC-12, SEC, Sun Belt and WAC followed almost immediately. America East canceled its conference championship game, scheduled for Saturday as well. Only the Big East actually tipped off Thursday, with St. Johns and Creighton playing the first half before the game, and the tournament, was canceled.

The NCAA also announced Thursday afternoon that both the men’s and women’s tournaments had been canceled. The NIT, which is owned by the NCAA, and the WNIT, which is not owned, were also canceled Thursday.

All remaining winter and spring NCAA championships were canceled as well, including the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, and Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City — both events which ordinarily take place in June.

The American Collegiate Hockey Association also canceled its national championship tournament, scheduled to begin March 19 in Frisco, Texas. USF hockey would have been a No. 1 seed during pool play thanks to finishing first in the South region.

The suspensions and cancelations followed a night that rocked the sports world, as the NBA suspended its season Wednesday night after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, which is the technical name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. One other member of the Jazz’s traveling party tested presumptive positive Thursday, guard Donovan Mitchell.

The professional sports leagues suspending operations continued Thursday, when the NHL — which has 11 teams that share arenas with NBA teams — announced it was suspending its season indefinitely. Both leagues were nearing the conclusion of their regular seasons, putting them and the league’s respective postseasons in serious jeopardy. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported that, as part of the NHL’s due diligence, it asked teams for arena availability through the end of July, while Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN the NBA could extend its season into August if needed.

Major League Baseball canceled the rest of spring training effective at 4 p.m. Thursday and pushed back Opening Day by at least two weeks.

Major League Soccer announce it was suspending its season for 30 days. Second-division USL Championship suspended its season for 30 days shortly after, while third-division USL League One, which has yet to kick off its season, announced it was pushing its season back by two weeks.

While not in season, multiple NFL teams suspended work-related travel, while the league canceled its owners meeting scheduled for March 21-22 in Palm Beach.

The PGA Tour announced late Thursday evening that it was canceling the rest of The Players Championship, which started Thursday with no spectators in attendance, as well as all events through April 5. The next scheduled event is the Masters, which is scheduled to start April 9.

Only a few major professional sports remain in operation as of late Thursday evening.

The English Premier League issued a statement saying its weekend fixtures were on as scheduled, though that will almost certainly change given announcements shortly afterward that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea midfielder Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for the virus. The league will have an emergency meeting Friday morning in response.

NASCAR announced it will run its next two races as scheduled, but without fans in attendance, and said it will determine future scheduling afterward.

Closer to home, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will still go on as scheduled in downtown St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon, though it too, will be without spectators.

WrestleMania 36, set for April 5 at Raymond James Stadium, was also still on, even despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asking cities Thursday to cancel all large gatherings for the next 30 days. WWE also announced that Friday Night Smackdown will take place this week with only essential personnel in attendance, albeit it at WWE’s Orlando training facility instead of Detroit, where it was originally going to take place.

Editor’s Note: For the sake of preservation, below is the original story of how USF Athletics was altering plans in response to the novel coronavirus.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, USF Athletics announced Thursday morning that it will be holding all upcoming home events with only teams, essential staff, credentialed media and limited family attendance until further notice.

The restriction starts with Thursday afternoon’s women’s tennis match against James Madison.

USF football coach Jeff Scott also rescheduled its Thursday morning practice. USF is planning to continue to monitor the situation to decide the status of the remainder of its spring practice, scheduled to resume March 24 after a planned week off for spring break, as well as April 18’s spring game.

“After consulting with university leadership, I have made the decision that it is in the best interest for the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, fans and the community at large to conduct our athletic competitions for a period of time in the absence of fans,” Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor closely the impacts of COVID-19 [the disease caused by the coronavirus] and consult public health resources as we assess the need for further adjustments moving forward.”

USF Athletics will attempt to live stream as many events as it can, according to the release, as well as continue its normal radio coverage on its Bulls Unlimited iHeartRadio stations.

Ticket holders will automatically be refunded by USF Athletics to the form of payment used for the original purchase.

The move comes the day after a number of conferences basketball tournaments announced they would be barring fans from attending, including the AAC men’s tournament, as well as both the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament and men’s and women’s NIT. The College Basketball Invitational, which the USF men won last season, canceled its tournament entirely, while the NBA suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus.

The move to close doors to fans comes one day after all 12 Florida public universities were directed to move classes to online instruction as soon as possible, with USF’s transition coming after next week’s spring break.