The Salkehatchie Indians were dealt a heartbreaking blow last Monday afternoon when the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) announced the cancellation of the 73rd Division I Men’s National Basketball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in regard to the spread of COVID-19.
“Although we had a feeling what the outcome would eventually be, we have been hanging on by a thread, praying for a miracle,” said Coach Jake Williams on social media Monday afternoon. “My heart is absolutely broken into pieces for our team. There is a hole in my heart that will take a long time to heal. This team will always have a piece of me, and they will always have a piece of each other.
“We don’t have the things other places have, but we never made an excuse,” said Williams. “We just showed up, went to work and got the job done. We all had the hopes and expectations of winning a region championship, playing in the national tournament, competing for a title and changing all our lives forever. Each of our young men earned and deserved this life changing opportunity. They had the greatest season in program history and didn’t get the opportunity to end it on their terms.
“I’d like to thank each player for your love, work and dedication,” said Williams. “Thank you for memories that will last a lifetime and for putting it on the line every single day.”
In a release dated Sunday March 15, the CDC guidance stated, “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.
“Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next eight weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”
The NJCAA responded to the CDC guidance Monday, releasing the following statement:
“Following the recent recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NJCAA has made the difficult decision to cancel all upcoming basketball championships as well as spring competition, effective immediately.
“In light of the progressive evolvement of the COVID-19 situation, the NJCAA has decided to end all competition for the remainder of the academic year,” stated Dr. Christopher Parker, NJCAA president and CEO. “As an association, the NJCAA exhausted all possible avenues to potentially postpone competition for both upcoming basketball championships and spring sport competition. We believe following the recommendations of the CDC is in the best interest of our member colleges and our student-athletes.”
Spring competition includes all practices, regular season, postseason, and national championship play.
Regarding eligibility for spring sports, no spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled at a member college in 2020 will be charged a year of participation.
Along with the cancellation of competition, all on and off-campus recruiting for all sports will be halted until April 15 with further evaluation to be assessed at that point in time.
The NJCAA will explore the opportunity to expand allowable Letters of Intent for spring sports for both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years under the recommendation of the NJCAA Eligibility Committee.