NCAA Cancels Fall Championships; Oklahoma State Loses Second Championship Hosting Honor

Zach Lancaster

STILLWATER -- The NCAA dropped a bombshell on the college sports world Thursday evening when it announced the cancellation of all fall sports championships, excluding football, for the 2020 season.

“We cannot now, at this point, have fall NCAA championships because there’s not enough schools participating,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a video released by the NCAA on Thursday. “The Board of Governors also said if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship. So we can’t (hold a championship), in any Division I championship sport now – which is everything other than FBS football – that goes on in the fall.”

This means this will be the second time in 2020 that Oklahoma State has missed out on hosting an NCAA Championship event in Stillwater. Oklahoma State was set to host the men's and women's NCAA tennis championships this past spring.

Both the tennis and cross country championships would've not just meant great exposure for Oklahoma State, but a huge boost economically for Stillwater.

“Disappointing, not totally unexpected,” said Dave Smith, the Director of Cross Country and Track and Field at Oklahoma State. “We knew a week or so ago that if we drop below that 50% participation threshold, we would lose the current formats for the championships. Just kind of talking to my colleagues around the country, we kind of saw this coming once we heard what the threshold was. So, disappointing for sure, but not totally unexpected at this point.”

This has been a rough year for athletes, especially cross country and track and field athletes. They had their indoor season cut short and they missed the entire outdoor season.

“I think for our athletes, like all of the sports, this is really disappointing for them,” said Smith. “I think they worked incredibly hard all summer long trying to get ready for the season. They already missed their track season, the end of their indoor track season and their entire outdoor track season. I think that was really hard for a lot of them to process and deal with. They’re almost, I don’t want to say rudderless, but kind of flowing through the last six months without being able to do what they love to do. I think that’s tough."

However, with the NCAA Division I Council's recommendation earlier this week, the athletes will retain their eligibility.

"The Council recommended the board provide fall sport student-athletes who compete and then opt out of future participation or have a season cut short due to COVID-19: (1) an extension of their five-year period of eligibility; and (2) an additional season of competition if they participate in 50% or less of the maximum number of competitions allowed in each sport by Division I rules."

Smith also eluded having some kind of athletic season, albeit under that 50% threshold, during throughout the fall. The most exciting part, especially for the athletes, Smith mentioned holding some form of competition on the day of what would've been the national championship.

“On the other hand, we’ve talked about we’re going to figure out some way to have a competitive season this fall and then maybe an NCAA championship season in the winter or the spring. I’ve told them we’re going to run a 10,000-meter race for the men and a 6,000-meter race for the women on our home course on November 21, the date of the National Championships. Whether it’s just us or us and a couple of other schools in a scrimmage or in some limited season that does not burn eligibility, we’re gonna have some competitive opportunity on that date.”

There is still, however, the threat of the coronavirus to take into consideration. As is the talk with football, the threat of spreading the virus during any competition or practice is being taken into consideration. Something else that's been talked about is the talk of 'Are the athletes more protected in a controlled environment, such as college athletics, then they are away from it?'

“I think there’s some frustration for sure,” Smith said about the virus. “[The athletes] are very intelligent people, they understand the lay of the land about what’s going on. I think some of them pay more attention to the news than others. As a group, I think they get it; it’s still disappointing and I think many of them feel, and I share this belief, that probably having that sport out there, and possibly for competition, is a real motivation to avoid situations that might be risky. I think as soon as we say ‘Hey, we’re done until January, February or March,’ it’s really hard to then completely isolate yourself, socially distance yourself, avoid typical college socialization activities, all those kinds of things that might happen in a college town. I think these athletes can put that on hold and have the stamina to stay away from it if they’ve got competition as something to look forward to. When you take that away – they’ve been told for six months that this isn’t dangerous for you, that you’re not likely to get it and whether that’s been true or not, that’s kind of been the message out there in the media. So, what I kind of get from them, is that if there’s not competition, ‘Well, I might as well go ahead and socialize a little bit more,’ and I think that’s a lot more risky than going on a run.”

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