NASHVILLE — The remainder of the SEC basketball tournament at Bridgestone Arena has been cancelled, and the league has suspended regular season competition for teams in all sports until March 30.
ALERT: Based on the latest developments and the continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Southeastern Conference today announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2020 Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) March 12, 2020
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement on the league action:
“We understand that this decision will be disappointing to our student-athletes and coaches who have been preparing all season to compete in this event as well as viewers at home.
“While this was not an easy decision, the health and well-being of our entire SEC community is of paramount importance.”
The league updated its website shortly after the SEC tourney annoucement, expanding the sports ban to regular-season events in the SEC.
The opening round of the SEC basketball tournament was played on Wednesday night in Nashville, at which time Sankey announced fan attendance would be restricted beginning with Thursday’s games.
But when the NBA suspended play late Wednesday night, speculation quickly arose that both conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament could be canceled or suspended.
At the time of this publication, there have been 938 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. with 29 related deaths across 39 jurisdictions including the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The SEC’s tournament cancellation announcement came after the Big Ten canceled the remainder of its league basketball tournament in Indianapolis. The ACC has announced it, too, is canceling the remainder of it’s league tournament.
Sankey, asked about the NBA shutdown at his press conference in Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night, said he had just learned about that 15 minutes earlier.
“The public health officials in Nashville have been our source of information,” Sankey said on Wednesday night. “That’s why we’ve continued as we did tonight. The change at the national level has altered our approach but hasn’t put us at this point into cancellation.”
That changed on Thursday morning, halting the seasons of the 14 teams that remained in the league tournament, including the Georgia basketball team.
According to the SEC release, regular season champion Kentucky will be awarded the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The NCAA tournament announced it plans to restrict fan attendance.
It’s reasonable to speculate the likelihood of the tournament beginning play as scheduled next week is questionable.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told DawgNation on Wednesday night in an exclusive video interview that SEC officials would discuss the coronavirus issue and how best to manage athletic events on a daily basis.
“As we know things change so rapidly with the coronavirus, with getting our hands around the coronavirus, we learn more every day,” McGarity said. “I’m sure we will probably be meeting on a conference call every day for the next week or so to get updated.”
Sankey stressed the situation was fluid, and that was proven correct with Thursday morning’s decision.
The league commissioner pointed out how quickly things have changed.
“I was at dinner saying I’m excited to have fans and play (Tuesday) night,” Sankey said, “so this is a fluid situation and we’re mindful of the fluidity.”
More information as story develops