This story will be updated as new information becomes available
In the aftermath of the NCAA's decision to cancel the remainder of championship events for winter and spring sports, the MIAA is joining leagues around the country by indefinitely suspending all athletic practices and competitions, according to a press release from the conference.
“There is a tremendous sadness we have for our student-athletes and coaches,” Northwest Missouri State Director of Athletics Andy Peterson said in a press release from the University. “We also understand the situation at hand with the coronavirus and taking an abundance of caution to protect the health of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is necessary.”
The announcement includes remaining winter sports and suspends all spring sports competitions as well. Northwest track and field and tennis are both on the road for competition. Both programs, according to the press release, will have a halt put to the road trip and return back to campus.
The suspension is in effect until the conference issues a statement saying otherwise.
The 2020 NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament, originally scheduled to be played March 14-17 at Bearcat Arena, has been canceled due to the growing concern over COVID-19, along with every remaining NCAA winter and spring championships, according to the latest statement from NCAA President Mark Emmert.
The release, which explicitly references the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, extends to all levels of the organization, confirmed by Northwest Assistant Athletic Director Colin McDonough.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” Emmert said in the statement.
The announcement brings a premature end to the seasons of hundreds of men’s and women’s winter sports teams across the country, including Northwest’s men’s basketball program, which was set to begin its title defense as host of the DII Central Region Tournament March 14.
Man it’s crazy can’t believe this 🤦🏽♂️— DB😎 (@Diego_Nate) March 12, 2020
The 2020 Division II Central Region Tournament, set to be March 14-17 in Bearcat Arena, is closed to the public, per Northwest Athletics.
Only essential staff and immediate family of each team will be allowed inside of the venue during each game. The essential staff, of course, will stay in the arena. The immediate family will be cleared out after each contest.
Fans that will be in the arena for the games will be without concessions as Northwest Athletics announced that the concession stands will be closed throughout the entirety of the tournament.
Fans that won't be able to attend can be issued refunds for tickets. If it was purchased by credit card, that will be sent back to the account with 5-10 business days. If it was purchased by cash, it can be refunded at the Cashiering Office inside of Northwest's Administration Building.
Along with that, fans will be able to watch a free streaming service of the contests on the MIAA Network, where all seven games from the region will be broadcast for no charge.
The decision from Northwest Athletics makes all eight of the regional sites closed to the public with Northwest being the last school to declare a ruling.
After Lincoln Memorial University announced the limitation of spectators at the Division II Southeast Region Tournament in Harrogate, Tennessee, Northwest is the only host school that hasn't made the move to limit spectators.
The other seven host sites have stated that the move is directly influenced by NCAA President Mark Emmert's guidance from a press release March 11.
Northwest Athletics suspended ticket sales for the 2020 NCAA Division II Central Region men’s basketball tournament March 11 after NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement less than an hour beforehand in regards to COVID-19.
The statement from Emmert, which directly mentions upcoming Division I men’s and women’s tournaments, said the tournaments would be conducted “with only essential staff and limited family attendance” as COVID-19, the disease caused by a virus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, continues to spread throughout the U.S.
It’s unclear to what level the restrictions will affect Division II, and more specifically, the Central Region Tournament set for March 14-17 at Bearcat Arena in Maryville, according to officials and releases from both Northwest Athletics and the NCAA. Northwest will provide updates as they become available, the athletics department said in the release.
“You found out the same time we did,” Assistant Athletic Director Colin McDonough said in a text message, referring to the release of Emmert’s statement.
The announced attendance restrictions and the stretch of their impact remain in flux at the Division II level. NCAA Director of Media Coordination and Statistics David Worlock said in an email the NCAA was discussing whether media would be considered as a part of “essential staff” without clarifying whether fans would be allowed into Division II tournaments over the weekend. Worlock directed further questions to NCAA Assistant Director of Championships Donnie Wagner. Wagner’s NCAA phone extension went unanswered and he did not immediately respond to email requests for comment.
David Lentz, an assistant director of media coordination at the NCAA who helps oversee some Division II activities and tournaments, said the NCAA was still unsure of how the restrictions would affect the Central Region Tournament.
“Things are still very fluid as to the scope of the restrictions,” Lentz said in an email just after 5 p.m. March 11, 30 minutes after Northwest Athletics suspended ticket sales. “We will pass along updates to the host schools as we have them.”
MIAA Director of Strategic Communication Ryley Egger said the conference — which has three men’s programs playing in the Central Region Tournament, including the host school in Northwest — was aware of Emmert’s statement and was monitoring the situation.
“We’ll follow Division II’s lead,” Egger said in a phone interview, adding that the MIAA was unaware of any Division II restrictions just before Northwest Athletics announced the suspension of ticket sales.
Emmert’s statement came after multiple Division I conferences made individual decisions regarding the playing of their conference tournaments. After Emmert released a statement March 10 leaving regular season and conference tournament cancelations and restrictions over COVID-19 fears up to the individual conferences, the Ivy League announced March 10 the cancellation of its tournament and announced the cancellation of all spring athletics competitions and practices for the remainder of the academic year March 11, according to The Washington Post.
Division I’s Mid-American Conference and Big West Conference both announced March 10 that each conference would hold their tournaments without spectators, according to The Post. In the aftermath of Emmert’s statement, the Big 12 Conference announced its men’s and women’s tournaments, played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, would proceed as planned March 11 but would be closed to spectators starting March 12, limiting each team to 125 tickets and clearing the venue after reach game, according to The Kansas City Star.
After our initial report, it has been discovered that Northwest is one of two regional host sites that hasn't announced the limitation of spectators in the venues. Northwest is coupled with Lincoln Memorial, the host of the southeast region in Harrogate, Tennessee, as the last two that haven't released information regarding Emmert's statement earlier in the day.
The other six hosts for their respective region stated that the choice to limit spectators was directly influenced from the suggestions courtesy of the NCAA.