March Madness won’t happen this year.
The NCAA announced Thursday afternoon that it has canceled the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as the other NCAA winter sports championships and all NCAA spring sports championships, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were scheduled to begin next week. The men’s field was expected to include Virginia, and the women’s field was expected to include Virginia Tech.
“Heartbroken is an understatement, but how awesome has this season been?” Tech junior guard Aisha Sheppard tweeted.
The NCAA Division III indoor track and field championships were scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Salem High School graduate Davonta Womack of Bridgewater College was one of the favorites to win the men’s 60-meter dash this week in Winston-Salem.
“A lot’s been taken from a lot of people, especially seniors like myself looking to do big things,” Womack said Thursday in a phone interview from a Winston-Salem hotel.
“When they first told us, it didn’t really hit me until I walked out and I called my mom, I called my girlfriend. … Once I started talking about it, just anger, tears and sadness kind of all hit at once.”
Womack had practiced at the track in Winston-Salem on Thursday before the announcement.
“There was a lot of athletes at the facility today, and a lot of people came in contact with each other,” Womack said. “Why not let everything continue? Everybody’s already there around each other.
“Maybe that’s an irrational statement, but that’s just my take on it.”
Washington and Lee’s Joe O’Connor and Southern Virginia’s Murray Bingham were also to have competed at the Division III indoor track and field championships.
Womack won the NCAA title in the 100 meters at the outdoor championships last May. But because the NCAA has already cancelled its spring championships, Womack won’t get to defend his crown.
The NCAA said in a statement that its decision was based on the “public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the 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 ACC had already suspended sporting activities, including participation in the NCAAs, earlier Thursday.
Virginia Tech point guard Taja Cole tweeted a crying emoji after the NCAA made its announcement. The Hokies were expecting to reap an at-large NCAA Tournament bid for the first time in 14 years.
Cole, a graduate student, tweeted a message to Tech coach Kenny Brooks.
“We had a great season and you took my game to new heights,” she tweeted. “God I wanted to go get that NCAA tournament so bad for you, my teammates and this state.”
The stunning end to the college basketball season came after a frantic morning when conference basketball tournaments around the country were cancelled. Then the conferences began shutting down all athletic activities, for at least a few weeks like the SEC, or indefinitely like the ACC.
A few hours later, the NCAA put an end to its tournaments.
“So you telling me I transferred to not play in the tournament,” tweeted Gonzaga men’s basketball player Ryan Woolridge, a graduate transfer from North Texas.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection show had been scheduled for Sunday, with the women’s selection show set for Monday.
“I respect the NCAA’s decision to put everyone’s safety first,” Arizona State men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley tweeted. “That said, every team deserves recognition for their season’s success. Brackets should still be announced on Selection Sunday.”
Games would have started on the men’s side on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, before spreading out to eight sites. The women’s tournament was scheduled to begin March 20, with first- and second-round games to be played at 16 sites on or near the campuses of the top teams.
“I’m disappointed, but I totally understand,” said Oregon women’s coach Kelly Graves, whose team would have entered the tournament as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four. “I really feel for the senior student-athletes; every student athlete, but particularly the seniors.”
The Division I indoor track and field championships were scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Fifteen Virginia Tech athletes and five UVa athletes had been expected to compete.
The Division I wrestling championships were set for next week. Nine Hokies had been expected to compete, including third-year sophomore Hunter Bolen (Christiansburg), who was the No. 2 seed at 184 pounds.
“I don’t know if he would’ve won it, but he had a good shot at it,” his father, Brett Bolen, said Thursday. “Those boys, they’ve worked really hard. It’s kind of a shame.”
Six UVa wrestlers and one VMI wrestler had also advanced to the NCAAs.
The Division I women’s swimming and diving championships were set for next week, with the men’s swimming and diving championships scheduled to be held in two weeks. UVa was to have sent 27 members of its men’s and women’s swimming and diving program to the NCAAs. Virginia Tech was to have sent three divers.
The NCAA Division III wrestling championships were scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Three wrestlers from W&L, two from Ferrum and one from SVU were to have competed.
The Division III men’s and women’s swimming championships were to begin on March 18. Eight W&L swimmers were scheduled to compete.
The Division III men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, which began last week, were to have resumed Friday with Sweet 16 games. Three state teams were still alive — the Randolph-Macon men and the Christopher Newport men and women.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.