Stanford cancels all sports seasons, suspends athletic activities indefinitely

In unprecedented decision, all national athletic competition halted due to coronavirus

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Stanford Athletics activities including “all competitions, practices, camps, clinics, and in-person recruiting activities are suspended until further notice” due to the rapid spread of coronavirus, Stanford announced on Thursday. The winter and spring seasons have been canceled for all Cardinal teams.

On Wednesday night, Stanford men’s basketball fell to California in the Pac-12 Tournament — and overnight the sports world changed. The Cardinal didn’t realize it during the game, but it was possibly the final Stanford sporting event of the 2019-20 season.

Just a few hours after the loss to the Golden Bears, NBA player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19, and the NBA promptly suspended the remainder of the season indefinitely. 

Subsequently, numerous other professional leagues, including the NHL and MLB, have followed suit.

On Thursday afternoon, the NCAA announced that it, too, would cancel all remaining winter and spring championships — including men’s and women’s March Madness and men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships (which were initially scheduled to take place over the next few weeks). 

Initially on Wednesday, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that all Division I men’s and women’s games would continue without fans and only “essential staff and limited family” — but the national organization has since amended the plan.  

The cancellations cuts short numerous Cardinal seasons including baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, fencing, men’s and women’s gymnastics, lacrosse, lightweight rowing, men’s and women’s rowing, sailing, softball, swimming and diving, synchronized swimming, men’s and women’s tennis, track and field, men’s volleyball, women’s water polo and wrestling.

It is unclear whether Cardinal athletes will be asked to return home for spring quarter as was asked of all undergraduates on Tuesday. The Daily has reached out to Stanford Athletics for comment.

The cancellation raises important national questions of player eligibility that are yet to be answered.

For basketball, the NCAA halt comes as an especially big blow. The Stanford women’s team was a favorite to make a deep run in the tournament, given its strong performance throughout the season. The Cardinal, who were at one point ranked first nationally, have four seniors on their roster, who will miss out on their final opportunity for a title run.

Meanwhile, the men’s team, which was having its best season in years, had its first shot at the NCAA tournament since 2014. Stanford’s NET ranking was fourth-highest in the Pac-12, and No. 30 nationally entering the tournament.

Top-ranked women’s swimming and diving, which was set to compete in the NCAA championships next week, also saw its season cut short. The Cardinal were seeking a fourth consecutive NCAA title, but will no longer have the chance to compete despite winning the Pac-12 title.

Men’s swimming and diving is in the same boat. After a third place finish at Pac-12s, the Cardinal had a shot at individual success behind senior Grant Shoults, who will also close his Stanford time without a final NCAA championship visit.  

Numerous Stanford athletes took off for all or some of the 2019-20 season to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but the status of the biggest global sporting event is also uncertain. 

On Thursday morning, the traditional flame lighting in Greece took place as scheduled, as the torch now begins its journey to Japan — despite Tokyo having 627 cases of coronavirus as of Thursday. Many organizers have voiced concerns, but as of now, the Games are still scheduled to commence on July 26; the status may be up in the air until as late as May.

Despite the unprecedented events resulting from coronavirus, Stanford will still complete the year with three NCAA titles, which were claimed in the fall. Unfortunately for the athletes, athletic department and fans, we will never know how many other awards the Cardinal might have tacked on.

Contact Cybele Zhang at [email protected]

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Cybele Zhang '22 is majoring in English Literature with a minor in German Studies. The Los Angeles-native has served as Sports Editor, her current position, for Vol. 255, 257 and 258. Her writing covers a wide range of sports, but she especially enjoys writing about women in sports and NCAA policy. Contact her at [email protected]