Big Ten Tournament, March Madness, all other NCAA championships are canceled due to coronavirus

<p>Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said the decision to cancel the Big Ten Tournament was for the well-being of the student athletes.&nbsp;</p>

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said the decision to cancel the Big Ten Tournament was for the well-being of the student athletes. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) canceled the 2020 March Madness basketball tournament as well as all other championships for the remainder of the academic year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, according to an official NCAA statement

This announcement came less than an hour after the Big Ten Conference announced all schools within the conference, including Rutgers, would not participate in any conference or non-conference competitions for the rest of the academic year, including NCAA tournaments, according to an official Big Ten statement. 

“The Big Ten Conference will use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the statement. 

Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs said the cancellations are in everyone's best interest, according to a press release.

"The healthiest among us will sacrifice their athletic pursuits to aid our Nation in its efforts to contain the spread of this virus. We are deeply disappointed for our student-athletes," Hobbs said. "Hopefully their sacrifice along with all the other actions that are being undertaken will bring an end to this health crisis as quickly as possible."

The Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana, was scheduled to begin Thursday but was canceled approximately 10 minutes prior to the planned start time due to COVID-19 concerns. The Rutgers men’s basketball team was supposed to play against Michigan. 

B1G Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren spoke about the cancellation at a press conference in Indianapolis. He said it is the responsibility of the conference to make sure the safety of student athletes comes first, regardless of how much they want to play. 

“As you make these decisions, which are not easy, you have to always ask yourself what is the right thing to do,” Warren said. “And I just felt very strongly that the right thing to do for our student athletes, and for our fans, and for the media, and for our families, our coaches, our administrators, was to make sure we cancel the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.”

Josh Valdez, sports editor at The Daily Targum, traveled to Indianapolis to cover the event with Associate Sports Editor Ray Lewis and Associate Photo Editor Kelly Carmack. Lewis said after the event was canceled that the conference’s concerns are warranted. 

“Obviously it’s unfortunate that the games can’t be played, but with the amount of stuff going on, there’s some things that are just bigger than basketball,” he said. 

Carmack said the tournament was previously scheduled to be played without any fans in attendance due to COVID-19 and was surprised that the event was canceled so abruptly. 

“I understand why such a decision was made, but for the sake of all the people who paid for tickets and traveling plans, I wish that the Big Ten would’ve made this decision sooner,” Carmack said. 

Hours later, after the NCAA announced all other championship games would be canceled, members of the Rutgers men’s basketball team shared their thoughts on social media. 

Guard Geo Baker, School of Management and Labor Relations junior, said in an Instagram post that he was proud of the team’s hard work and accomplishments throughout the past season. 

“We were counted out from the very beginning but we all believed in each other and that was all we needed even to the very end,” Baker said. “I hope this is not the end of the road for this group because i know we still have so much left.”

Guard Ron Harper Jr., a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he is unsure of what comes next for the team, according to an Instagram post.

“From the biggest haters to our biggest supporters you helped make this season truly special,” Harper Jr. said. “No matter what happens next I love my teammates and I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished.”

Valdez said the men’s basketball team was projected to make it to the March Madness tournament for the first time since 1991. 

“While the program is still improving and in a good place, this is a heart-wrenching way to end the season for a team that was about to make history,” Valdez said. “Hopefully they can still build on this year's success and replicate it next year so they can finish what they started.”

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