GREENSBORO, N.C. -- UPDATE: 4:40 p.m. ET: The NCAA has not only postponed its men's and women's basketball tournaments, it has cancelled them altogether.
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 12, 2020
UPDATE: 3:35 P.M. ET: The ACC has suspended all athletic activities, directly affecting the University of Pittsburgh.
“This is uncharted territory and the health and safety of our student-athletes and institutions remains our top priority," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "This decision is aimed to protect from the further spread of COVID-19.”
Pitt director of athletics Heather Lyke offered the following in a statement:
"The decision was made with one priority in mind — the health and well-being of our student-athletes," Lyke said. "We are very cognizant of the disappointment that may be felt by our young people who worked and prepared so hard for their seasons. However, this is an unprecedented circumstance, and we must prioritize safety and responsibility in our response to it. The decision to indefinitely suspend all competition, practices and recruiting is one we fully support.
"Our administrators, staff and coaches will remain actively engaged with all of our student-athletes, ensuring their well-being during this time of suspended athletics activity and distance learning."
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS:
Turns out, Pitt's men's basketball team couldn't have won the ACC Tournament down here at Greensboro Coliseum, anyway.
One day after Pitt was eliminated by North Carolina State, the ACC joined all other Power Five conferences — the Big 10, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12— and decided Thursday to cancel the remainder of their conference tournament altogether due to mounting research and concern surrounding the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic:
— ACC Men's Basketball (@accmbb) March 12, 2020
With that, Florida State, the ACC's No. 1 seed entering the tournament receives the conference championship and the automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. That made for a bizarre scene, as Florida State was awarded the crown in front of an empty arena after having not even played a game:
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) March 12, 2020
"This is really bigger than just from an athletics standpoint," Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton was saying here. "This is a worldwide epidemic. We will have more opportunities to play basketball, but the downside of some of the circumstances that could happen as a result of us not being cautious, not being properly cautious, would be something that we don't want to have to deal with."
So what will the Big Dance even look like this year? Will it happen at all?
The tournament is still scheduled to take place as of this time, Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET, but fans will not be permitted to attend. In addition, top-level schools such as Duke University and the University of Kansas have withdrawn after suspending "all athletic competitions and practices for the health and safety of all who are essential to these activities."
Duke University has implemented a suspension that "applies to all athletic competitions and practices for the health and safety of all who are essential to these activities.”
So you can see where this is headed. We’re not going to play an NCAA Tournament next week without Duke.
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 12, 2020
So if the tournament happens at all, some of the best, most qualified schools will not be taking part.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR PITT AND OUR COVERAGE?
For the Panthers, the basketball team is obviously done regardless. Their season's a wrap, and the only news to come over the next 45 - 60 days will be recruiting, signees and/or potential transfers. None of that should be significantly impacted.
For the football team, however, things are just beginning. The University recently announced they will transition to distance learning starting March 23 in response to the coronavirus. In the statement, the University also said they "concluded that Pitt Athletics may continue its practice and competition regimen as previously scheduled."
This, however, came on Wednesday at 3:32 p.m., and the situation, as you might've noticed, is rapidly evolving.
Thursday, a Pitt official told me the latest statement still stands but we should "anticipate some imminent updates" to that previous policy.
Hang tight. This is still developing.
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