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Let’s Talk Coronavirus

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COVID-19 is starting to have an impact on the college sports world

Providence v Boston College Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

It’s felt inevitable the last couple weeks that the Coronavirus would eventually have an impact on the sports world, and it appears that we may have finally reached the breaking point. Schools across the northeast, and across the country as a whole, are starting to take measures to slow the spread of the virus by reducing the number of mass-attended events.

Here in my home state of Connecticut, all high school tournaments for the winter sports season have been cancelled and the governor announced a state of emergency this afternoon. Harvard, as well as several other schools in Massachusetts, are sending students home, telling students to expect classes to be remote after spring break. The University of New Haven is doing all that and more, cancelling sporting events as well.

Outside of individual schools, there’s been some conference-wide action as well, with the Ivy League taking the lead. The Ivies cancelled this year’s basketball tournaments and will send the regular season champions to the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments. For hockey, the Cornell Big Red are the only Ivy league team hosting games, and both the men’s ECAC quarterfinals and the Women’s NCAA quarterfinals that Cornell is hosting at Lynah Rink will be played without fans.

And so, the dominoes have begun to fall. With schools and universities being huge communities of people frequently in close contact with each other — even without even factoring sporting events — these measures should go a long way to help mitigation efforts. With everyone tending to be follow each other’s lead, so how might that affect BC?

Before we run down the scenarios, we first want to make clear that this is just a breakdown of the possibilities, not an expectation of what will happen. Indeed, we reached out to BC for comment regarding where Boston College Athletics stands at present, and received a response this afternoon:

Boston College would follow NCAA and conference guidelines regarding athletic events. There have been no specific requests to cancel events at this time.

Reasonable!

So knowing that, what might we see over the next several weeks?

Boston College Unilaterally Cancels School’s Sporting Events

BC’s statement makes it clear that they will be following the lead of their peer institutions as it stands right now, so this is probably the least likely and definitely the most drastic measure. Making decisions together with our conference mates makes the most sense — the more schools act together, the more effective the response will be. The University of New Haven did cancel events on their own, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented to do this, but UNH appears to have done so because some students are known to have come into contact with someone at a conference who had the virus.

Games Played With Empty Arenas

Get all your “har har har they do that already!” jokes out now. This action would almost certainly come down from the ACC and/or Hockey East (or the NCAA, in the case of national tournaments), and would make a lot of sense. It would both allow the events to continue, which everyone wants (in particular with basketball and hockey in Trophy Season) while getting rid of the thousands-of-people-in-close-proximity issue. And you would assume that the games would still be streamed/televised, so at a minimum the fans would still be able to watch. It makes so much sense, in fact, that you are starting to see several institutions do this already (hello, Cornell).

With the Hockey East and Men's ACC (see below — on as scheduled) tournament on tap over the next couple weeks, this is probably the main thing to keep an eye on — with of course, the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament or NIT to follow.

Games Are Postponed

This would solve the issue of getting the events played and also the issue of fans not being able to attend, but it seems unlikely that any moderately-sized event would go this route. Just from a logistical standpoint, having tournament games moved (particularly ones set at a neutral site) would be a nightmare. Postponing some regular season events on campus sites for some sports could be a possibility, though, at least in the short term.

YOLO!

We’re smack in the middle of everything changing on an almost minute-by-minute basis nationally, but as of now, the Hockey East tournament and ACC games of other sports are set to be played as scheduled. In fact, the ACC announced that the men's basketball tournament will go on as normal in Greensboro:

Should that stick with the other events, then you would obviously have minimal disruption of the sports calendar — though it’s tough to predict which direction this will go.

We’ll have any updates to the Boston College sports calendar right here should anything change over the next several days.