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NCAA cancels championships because of COVID-19 concerns

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The NCAA men's and women's golf championships have been canceled.

After initially stating that the championships would be contested with "only essential staff and limited family" in attendance because of COVID-19 concerns, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the news Thursday afternoon, saying in statement obtained by GolfChannel.com:

"Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors cancelled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships. 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."

The NCAA Division I men's and women's golf championships were schedule to be played May 22-June 3 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. Regionals were slated for early May.

The breaking news came just hours after many conferences announced the cancellation or suspension of competitions and other activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Friday morning, COVID-19, a novel coronavirus that originated in China last December, has affected more than 1,000 people and killed at least 33 in the U.S., per NBC News. Professional sports leagues such as the NBA, MLB and MLS, have suspended play indefinitely. The PGA Tour, however, continues to be played, though without fans beginning Friday and through the Valero Texas Open.

The Florida State women’s team was less than an hour into its drive to Augusta, Georgia, for this weekend’s Valspar Augusta Invitational when the Seminoles had to turn the van around, with the ACC ruling that “all athletic related activities, including all competition, formal and organized practice, recruiting and participation in NCAA championships until further notice.”

“It’s about the safety of our players, coaches and everyone involved, so I get it,” Florida State women's coach Amy Bond said. “Sport is great and all, but we’re talking about human beings here. … I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Florida men's coach J.C. Deacon echoed that sentiment: "Everyone's safety and health has to be the No. 1 concern."

The Southeastern Conference released its statement Thursday, saying that it had “suspended regular season competition for teams in all sports on SEC campuses, as well SEC championship events, until March 30.” The Big 12 suspended its championships until April 15 and "all regular-season competitions, on- and off-campus recruiting, and out-of-season practices" until March 29. The Pac-12 canceled its competitions and championships “until further notice.”

The Big Ten, Ivy League and Patriot League canceled all activities for the remainder of the spring season. Other conferences had made similar announcements.

On Thursday, two Division I events were being played, both in Daytona Beach, Florida, when each were called after 36 holes. Following the NCAA news, those appear to be the final tournaments of the 2019-20 season.

Florida State's men's coach, Trey Jones, who had just finished an emotional meeting with his team, called the reality of the season likely being over "gutting," especially for the seniors.

"But on the other side, our job is also to look after their wellbeing," Jones said, "and we have to trust our leaders and do what they say and understand that there are bigger things than golf."

(The NCAA has yet to comment to a GolfChannel.com request on whether players will be extended an extra year of eligibility.)

"The absolute worst feeling is knowing I played my last tournament with my team not knowing it would be the last," Alabama senior Kenzie Wright said. "Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now."

Pepperdine men's assistant Blaine Woodruff couldn't believe the news. The Waves were among the favorites to win the NCAA men's title this season.

"Incredibly rash to make a call on a championship held in over two months – wouldn't expect anything different though from the @NCAA," he tweeted. "Mainly hurt for our guys, especially our seniors who gave their all to rejuvenate the program into a national presence. Just completely heartbroken for our guys."

Texas Tech head coach Greg Sands and Illinois head coach Mike Small agreed, as did several other coaches who opted not to give official comment.

"Love for the @NCAA to come look in the eyes of my players right now," Sands tweeted. "You have ripped the heart and soul out of these guys! Why are you cancelling season so prematurely? Can we suspend the season 2-4 weeks and see what happens?"

Added Small: "I feel for my seniors. So, so much! I know that correct decisions are being made for the safety and health of our citizens, but it is tough and painful to see the athletic careers of three impactful and successful Illini athletes end like this."