College fans enter uncharted waters with Covid-19 cancellations

‘I’ll miss the NCAA tournaments,’ says basketball fan

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A symbol of darkness hangs over the the heads of sports fans everywhere. JAKE BOLIN MOSS/TORONTO OBSERVER

CLEARWATER, Fla. — College basketball fans were forced to change their plans and some of them spent the day relaxing at Clearwater Beach on Friday amid the COVID-19-related cancellations.

In an unprecedented move, the NCAA suspended all spring sports, including March Madness basketball, due to what is now being described as a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization.

Pittsburgh native Keith James planned on attending the BIG 12 tournament in Kansas City with his wife.

“We got tickets, booked the rooms,” said James, on the beach near the famous Pier 60. “We came here instead (Clearwater Beach).”

Despite the disappointment of buying tickets to an event they did not attend, he believes the NCAA made the right choice.

“I’ll miss the NCAA tournaments, but that’s alright,” said James. “Got to keep people safe.”

Not everyone in Clearwater saw the NCAA’s response to the matter as appropriate, particularly those with deep-rooted interests. With the University of Kansas being predicted as the overwhelming favourite to win the National Championship, one Jayhawks fan felt cheated.

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“I think it’s an overreaction,” said Olivia, a Junior at the University of Kansas. “This is our year, I can’t watch them play and beat every other team in March Madness.”

The cancellation of the tournaments has made her feel like she can’t even recognize her own university.

“Basketball is Kansas’ biggest thing,” said Olivia.

The NCAA tournament, which made US$993 million in revenue last year, speaks to many Americans in ways pro sports don’t. While not every state has a professional team, college teams are relevant in every corner of the country. 

“I’m from Nebraska and we don’t have a pro team,” said Mike, a die-hard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan explaining the importance of the college game.

Aside from geography, Americans also feel a connection to college sports because of the authenticity of the competition.

College athletes among those hurt by virus

CLEARWATER, Fla. — As disappointed as fans are about the cancellation of March Madness, nobody feels more crestfallen than the players due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The seniors, many of them would be playing their last games at the tournament, are distraught about how their collegiate careers will end, if they don’t accept another year of eligibility.

One pedestrian wearing a Miami University hat, who preferred to stay anonymous, shared her opinion on what the senior athletes may be feeling at this time.

“(It’s a) huge disappointment. Before any of this, all the teams had their senior day,” she said. “(At least) they got to play at home their last game of the season and potentially were recognized as seniors at that point.”

In addition to the seniors, the freshman players who planned on declaring for the NBA draft may feel an obligation to opt for a sophomore season in order to showcase themselves in next year’s tournament.

Tom, a college hoops fan, agreed with this sentiment.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of freshmen (that will) come back,” he said. “Not all of them, but more than what people think, simply because of that.”

The overall reaction to the cancellation was mixed, as some thought it was a necessary precaution and others believed the hysteria has been overexaggerated.

“It’s kind of crazy,” said Torin, a local high school student. “I feel like people are overreacting a little bit. I know it’s a big deal but I heard it’s a little worse than the fever.”

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Posted: Mar 14 2020 2:57 pm
Edition: Toronto
Filed under: Special Reports COVID-19 News Sports