COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork addressed the media Thursday afternoon to speak of the recent events surrounding the NCAA decision to shut down the NCAA tournament for the 2020 season. Due to the high spread of concern surrounding the COVID-19 virus, multiple sporting events have closed their doors indefinitely to protect the players and personnel of the staff.
Bjork stated in Nashville that while the choice made by the NCAA will affect all involved, the ultimate decision was out of the hands of the faculty of all sporting members.
"This has been just a moving target," Bjork said. "You know, all week long, you know, everyone saw all the messages coming out around college basketball. We'll talk just basketball for a second. You know, we have regular scheduled meetings here at the SEC tournament.
"And literally, like every minute something's popping around the world, around the country, different statements, reports to Congress. You know, the WHO organization about the pandemic. I mean, this is all just happening in real time."
Bjork said the decision had been growing in the coming days since the teams arrived at Bridgestone Arena Tuesday afternoon. At 9:13 p.m. Wednesday, a message stated that fans would no longer be allowed to attend games due to the rising concerns of the virus spreading — drawing a plethora of boos from the crowd.
The thoughts were teams would still be allowed to play, with the advance precautions on taking care of the equipment players use. Then, as speculation grew that the tournament would be canceled, the SEC finally released a statement, agreeing with the notion that the games would be shut down for the 2020 season.
Bjork believes the NBA's decision to suspend operations ultimately played a factor in the role of NCAA's final verdict.
"A really, really pivotal moment in the athletic world is what happened with the NBA last night,” Bjork said.
On Wednesday, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the eventual shutdown of the league. The next morning, Donavon Mitchell tested positive with similar results.
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The ultimate decision will affect seniors in their final year of eligibility, including the likes of A&M's Josh Nebo and Wendell Mitchell. Bjork said he had not spoken with the players since the news broke earlier that afternoon.
“I haven’t had a chance to really interact with a lot of players, but I saw a few of them getting off the (hotel) elevator,” Bjork said. "We were doing the elbow bump. They were like, ‘It’s the right decision, let’s move on and work together on this.’"
Players, however, have been responsive to the news coming out and are hopeful the NCAA will be able to fix this in the long-term process.
“I think they understood it," Bjork responded. "I think the NBA was a reality check for the sports world, and then you saw a lot of things happen in the aftermath of all that.”
As it stands, the NCAA will not come to a decision on the future of the players in the final year with programs. A large online outcry from fans have asked the league to extend the offer to another year of eligibility for players who will miss the tournament due to the coronavirus.
Bjork said the league's concern is about taking care of their players through a difficult time, rather than the future of the sport — prioritizing health over play.
Said Bjork: "What we're getting from the NCAA right now is mainly around how do we support our student-athletes? How do we house them? What kind of meal plans? What kind of practice schedules? We're getting that kind of information. Extended eligibility, we have not had those in-depth conversations.
Bjork closed the long, and perhaps the most dreadful day in sports looking after his player. The Aggies AD stated he is confident the overall health of players will be contained for the future.
"We’ve already monitored if anyone is symptomatic right now, so we don’t have any concerns about that,” he said. “As student-athletes come back from spring break, we’re going to have them check in to the training room to see if there are any symptoms.
“Those athletes that are in-season are already in touch with their trainers on a daily, hourly basis, so we don’t have any concerns as of now. If it comes to that and someone does show signs, we’ll have them tested. Right now, we don’t see a need for that.”
The Aggies will finish the 2019-20 season at 16-14, going 10-8 in conference play in the first year under the Buzz Williams era. The team posted their best record in the SEC since their sweet-sixteen appearance against Michigan in 2016.