The SEC's Suspension Will Shut It Down — Including Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION — With the rising spread of concern around COVID-19, it's best to know some of the facts. Much like the flu, the coronavirus is contagious but will leave the body within 2-14 days.
The Southeastern Conference's suspension will last longer than those affected. On Friday afternoon, the SEC announced that all athletic events will be on hold until at least April 15.
That will include the likes of Texas A&M — hitting athletic director Ross Bjork as he closed in on his first season as the school's man in command.
"Right now, the health and well-being of our student-athletes, our staff our coaches, people in the community, that is what is most important," Bjork said addressing the media Friday afternoon. "We know the President [Trump] has just announced the state of emergency, the state of Texas, the same thing. So, we're all impacted by this.
"We have to take it serious, and that's what we're trying to do."
The NCAA canceled all sporting events Thursday afternoon. At the time, Bjork was in Nashville, Tenn. with the Men's Basketball program, prepping for the start play against the Missouri Tigers. On Wednesday night, the news broke that the NBA would shut down after Utah Jazz all-star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
Less than 24 hours later, the SEC tournament would close its door to teams, sending schools home and declaring the Kentucky Wildcats champions of the conference.
And much like the rest of the world, there will be no timetable to when normality returns to form.
"I don't think we can rule out anything right now, but I don't think we can rule in anything either," Bjork said. "This thing is evolving. Who knows what will happen with the SEC championships at this point. Who knows what will happen with any regular-season in the spring sports. All those things are still coming together."
Bjork affirmed that the players would be taken care of, providing nutrition, mental health support, counseling and other extremities to those who need it. The logistics of how it will unfold will remain in the air until the university can find the best way to provide the necessary precautions.
Making it a point to look after his own, Bjork stated that while the university will close, the doors will remain open to those who wish to stay behind on campus.
"If they feel this is the safest place, then they'll be here," Bjork stated. "If they feel they need to be at home, then so be it. We're not making anything mandatory. We're not making anything optional. Case by case."
Baseball, softball and gymnastics will be put on hold. Basketball season will come to a halting stop. As for football? That remains to be seen at the current moment heading into the darkest moment in sports history.
While some will cancel the spring all-together, Bjork will be on hands with the conference, working with what is told to them. The 15 practices that are restricted to teams could be rescheduled down the line, but the hope is the gridiron will be occupied sooner than expected.
But Bjork is also looking into the future, perhaps finding ways for the team to remain in-tact without breaking the rules. Looking to skill instructions to added days in the summer could be potential outlooks for the program of The 12th Man.
Waiting for everything to come full-circle, Bjork credited the successful transition thanks to the leadership of SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Already meeting in Nashville for the annual athletic director meeting, Bjork's boss helped institutions find a clear path towards something positive in the future.
Said Bjork: "That's been really really great to see from our commissioner. He, I believe nationally, has led the charge with a lot of these efforts to just be thoughtful, be mindful, be organized.
"I think that's been really great from the SEC perspective."
The sporting world will be quiet in the future. How long? Who's to say. Perhaps if there's a sliver of light coming from the tunnel's outlook, the NCAA will grant spring student-athletes relief for a season of eligibility after canceling winter and spring championships due to the coronavirus outbreak.
But every story will have two faces. While players such as basketball's Wendell Mitchell or baseball's Cam Blake will receive another season, there's no word on players who weren't expected to graduate this upcoming spring.
If you ask Bjork, its only fair to give everyone effect a second chance.
A chance to rewrite their story that was plucked away within hours of prepping for a chance at destiny.
"My questions are those sports that just ended or were playing a championship like indoor track? Does indoor track get a year back just because they missed one meet? I don't know that answer yet," Bjork said. "Those are the kind of things we have to work through."