The sports world at Delta State University have been halted for the rest of the year as the Gulf South Conference officially announced Monday that it canceled all spring events including competition and championships due to concerns of COVID-19, which is known as the Coronavirus.
Earlier this month, the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championships and conferences across the country have been canceling their seasons.
The sports Delta State University had active were baseball, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s golf. The football program postponed spring practice.
Delta State University Athletic Director Mike Kinnison said he feels the conference made the right call.
“I think it was the right decision,” Kinnison said. “As big as athletics is to all of us, this medical situation right now is bigger than athletics.”
The GSC first suspended all athletic events on Mar. 13. Before the decision Monday was announced, Delta State was rearranging some of its events that were scheduled in the spring.
Delta State head football coach Todd Cooley announced Friday that the 7th Annual Football Golf Tournament and Draw Down, which was scheduled for Apr. 3, was postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date. The athletic department announced last week that The Green and White Awards have been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date, and the Delta State University Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which was scheduled for Friday, was postponed and will be made up at a later dater.
“For some time, we could see it moving in that direction,” Kinnison said about getting ready for the cancellation of spring sports. “So many universities had made the decision to go to online classes. It was something that allowed use to cancel reservations, bus services, umpires and other things.
“We don’t have any events we’re maintaining at this point. We’ve canceled our athletic events we have across campus and moved others to a later date. The hall of fame ceremony, we’ll shift that to the fall. That’s no different than what other entities have done.”
Kinnison said the coaches have had to make some major adjustments.
“The university has suspended all travel,” Kinnison said. “Our coaches are having to adjust their recruiting by using video or e-mail. Coaches want to be building and improving, but right now we all have to take a step back.”
With concerns of the virus forcing the NCAA to shut down sports, the organization has announced that all spring athletes will be granted a year wavier, which would allow them an extra year of eligibility.
“That certainly helps,” Kinnison said. “There’s a lot of athletes that want to get that extra year back and finish that senior season on a positive note. There is still a lot of unanswered questions about that. While we’re excited the seniors will get that year of eligibility back, we still have to figure out where the funding for those extra scholarships will come from. Instead of each coach having four classes in their program, there will be five.”
Delta State head baseball coach Rodney Batts was saddened by the season coming to a halt but understands it had to be done.”
“It’s disappointing any time your season gets cut short for whatever reason,” Batts said. “The players put in a lot of hours through the fall, the off-season and through the early part of the season. And to only get 23 games played out of 50, that’s disappointing for all the players and the time they have put into this.
“The decision made by our conference was the only decision to make really. These are times that none of us have ever seen, and it comes down to the fact of protecting the health of our players and coaches. We are only at the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. You have seen this decision across all levels of athletics across the country. Our conference is doing its part to hopefully help slow the spread of the virus.”
The school’s golf team was ranked 14th in the Golfstat national poll when the season came to a close.
The school’s men’s tennis was in the middle of a perfect 9-0 season, while the women’s team (1-7) was showing some progress.
“It’s disappointing in that both teams and the coaches put in a ton of work to get prepared for the season,” Delta State head tennis coach Bo Petro said about the year getting canceled. “The women’s team was much improved from last year and we were about to get our number one player off injured reserve, so the women’s team was about to have a great season.
“The men’s team was undefeated with wins over top 15 nationally ranked opponents and a win over the University of Southern Miss. The DSU men’s team was going to be ranked around 10-12 nationally when the rankings were supposed to be posted. So I was really disappointed for the men because it’s been a while since DSU had a team this good.”
Despite being saddened by the abrupt end to the season, Petro understood the decision to cancel the season had to be made.
“I understand the decision from the GSC,” Petro said. “All of this is out of our hands and we have to do what is best for the greater good and health of everyone.”
Petro and Batts felt the NCAA did the right thing in their decision to give players an extra year of eligibility.
“I’m grateful the seniors get another opportunity to finish their playing careers,” Petro said. “None of this is their fault and they all deserve to have another year and finish their careers.”
“I think the NCAA did a great thing to grant all spring sport athletes another year,” Batts said. “They only get four years to play, and to have one of those years taken away after not even a half of a season would have been tough. It makes it tougher on numbers and scholarships for the next few years, but I think they did the right thing for the student -athletes to grant them all another year and not count this one as one of the four.”