COVID-19 outbreak cancels Wildcat athletics

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TIME WILL TELL—It remains quiet on the NMU sports campus with a new order from the state of Michigan to close all gyms until further notice. The Physical Education Instructional Facility, Superior Dome, Berry Events Center and the Wildcat Fit Zone are closed for recreation, programmed activities, varsity strength, conditioning activities, practices and competitions. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

For a month that has been made famous from sports over the years, March is an empty cupboard. Sports across the world have been affected in recent weeks by the COVID-19 outbreak, including NMU, where athletics for the remainder of the year have been canceled. 

After the NCAA announced on Thursday, March 12 that the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments were canceled along with all remaining winter and spring sports for the academic year, the Division II Administrative Committee followed suit. In the case of Wildcat athletics, NMU Athletic Director Forrest Karr had advice for those in leadership such as NMU President Fritz Erickson. But at the end of the day, everything that was decided was thought to be best for student-athletes.

“GLIAC and WCHA presidents/chancellors made these difficult decisions with input from healthcare professionals, athletic directors and many others,” Karr said. 

The Men’s and Women’s Swim and Dive teams and Men’s and Women’s Nordic Skiing teams were in the middle of its national championships before both events were canceled in the blink of an eye. Both the Men’s and Women’s Golf teams had its first meet on Saturday, March 7, and that was the only meet that either team will get to participate in this season. Women’s Lacrosse was set to go on the road for its first two GLIAC games of the year on Friday, March 13 when the news hit, and the Women’s Outdoor Track and Field had yet to begin competition. 

Even though it was hard for these teams to be forced to end its seasons, it was well understood why this decision was necessary.

“Our coaches are all very supportive and understand the importance of prioritizing student-athlete health and well-being,” Karr said.

Among other moves made by the Division II Administrative Committee, it adopted emergency legislation to immediately establish a recruiting dead period in sports at least until April 15, and at that time, the committee will re-evaluate, per a release from the NCAA. In bigger news from the release, the committee voted to allow schools to self-apply season-of-competitiors waivers for student-athletes who lost their spring seasons this year. This is an unprecedented decision in unprecedented times, and Karr said that he supports the decision from the committee.

Coming from multiple government officials, the outbreak of COVID-19 could last until the summer months. Karr said that there’s no way to tell right now if this will affect fall sports as well, especially since most teams begin training in the spring and summer months. NMU Football had just begun its spring practice season, so even if the game schedule might not be affected, the season as a whole will be off to a slow start for every fall sports team. 

In the following days of NMU announcing that it was going online on Wednesday, March 11, announcement after announcement came in the following days. One of them came on Monday, March 16, when a new ordinance from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer included that gyms across the state are temporarily shut down through at least Monday, March 30.

Originally, NMU’s sports campus buildings were to remain open, but with the outbreak growing as much as it has in the state and country, plans changed.

“The Physical Education Instructional Facility, Superior Dome, Berry Events Center and the Wildcat Fit Zone are closed for recreation, programmed activities, varsity strength and conditioning activities, and all practices and competitions,” Karr said.

Not only does this conflict with athletes, the entire NMU community will be affected by the closing of the workout facilities. Things have been turned upside down due to COVID-19, and the sports world has turned into a desolate wasteland until normalcy returns. Until then, the Wildcats are in a quite unique situation.