Pandemic forces cancellation of 2020 college basketball national championships

Published On March 13, 2020 | By Paige McGowan | News
The 2019-2020 Humber men’s basketball team. The team includes five seniors that will not get to play in the highly anticipated 2020 national college championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Humber Hawks)
Paige McGowan

The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association will not crown a men’s or women’s basketball national champion this year. 

The CCAA Board of Directors, made up of members from institutions in each conference across the country, decided to cancel the CCAA National Championships on Thursday afternoon.

“Yesterday was a very difficult day and I’m truly disappointed for our student-athletes and coaches who have worked so hard for the opportunity to compete at a CCAA Championship,” said Rodney Wilson, the CCAA communications and events manager.

The decision to do this is based on the rapidly evolving COVID-19 public health threat.

The goal is to ensure larger sanctioned events do not contribute to the spread of the virus and to keep everyone out of harm’s way.

“The safety of our student-athletes is our priority,” said Sandra Murray-MacDonell, CCAA chief executive officer. “Unfortunately, it has become impractical to host a national championship during this academic year.” 

The women’s championships were scheduled to take place at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus between March 18 and 21. 

Humber women’s basketball won the OCAA bronze medal. They didn’t qualify for the 2020 CCAA tournament in B.C. (Humber Hawks)

“As of right now, the season is over and the focus is on ensuring the safety of all staff and students,” said Brian Lepp, the Hawks sports information and marketing coordinator.

Teams were originally expected to arrive for the men’s championships early next week, and games would have taken place at Humber College’s North campus between March 19 and 21.

This cancellation puts an abrupt end to the season just one week before the tournaments tip off.

Humber guard DeQuon Cascart goes up against rival Sheridan defence in regular-season play. The Toronto college was hosting the 2020 CCAA national tournament until the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation. (Humber Hawks)

“The coaches and student-athletes worked their entire lives to reach the national championship and to have that cut short is devastating, especially to our seniors,” Lepp said.

“However, the CCAA made the right decision because the safety of staff and students is and always will be the number one priority,” he said.

The Hawks last hosted the CCAA National Championship in 2001 and became just the second team to win the title as the host team.

Fourth-year forward Cy Samuels being honoured Feb. 20 on Seniors Night in his final season as a Hawk. (Humber Hawks)

“Everyone was heartbroken by the cancellation of Nationals, it was a big throw off for everyone,” said senior Hawk forward Cy Samuels. “It feels like all year, especially since we were hosting, everyone was on the same page where nationals was going to be a staple or a pinnacle for our season.

“It’s heartbreaking because you feel like everything you’ve worked for throughout the season was almost worth nothing in a sense,” Samuels said.

“Obviously it was memories to be had with your teammates and coaches, but at the same time it feels like you were working towards nothing the whole time,” he said. “In any basketball season there’s always a goal and something you work towards, and that was taken away from us.”

Humber captured the 2019 CCAA bronze medal at last year’s tournament with a come-from-behind win over Collége Montmorency in British Columbia, 84-76.

“Athletics staff has put so many hours into planning and organizing nationals, I can’t imagine how devastated they were after hearing the news,” said varsity operations employee Abigail Zalewski. “I’m not sure how scheduling will be going forward, overall I’m just disappointed that I’ll be missing out on hours and some great basketball.”

In their final games of the season, the women’s team captured the 2020 OCAA bronze medal, and the men’s team took home the silver.

“After losing to George Brown in our finals at OC’s, I feel like it’s ending the season with a bitter taste for everyone,” said Samuels.

This outbreak is something the world of sports has never had to deal with before, sporting events at all levels are either being cancelled or postponed awaiting further information.

“We are obviously faced with a very unique situation at the moment, one that we have never faced before here at TSN,” said the network’s senior highlight manager Scott Hart.

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