The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association planned to kick off its men’s and women’s basketball seasons next month, but its board of directors voted to scrap those plans as cases of Covid-19 continue to hit record numbers, according to a press release Monday.
The cancellation breaks the 75-year streak of hosting the popular CIAA basketball tournament. After a 15-year run in Charlotte, the 2021 tournament was scheduled for Feb. 23 to Feb. 27 in Baltimore, Maryland.
CIAA officials also announced that there would be no women’s volleyball, after pushing the season from the fall to spring.
“Unfortunately, Covid-19 continues to challenge the conference’s ability to see a clear path to move forward collectively. The impact to health and wellness, community concerns, as well as the economic ramifications are real,” CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said in a statement.
Lamonte Massie-Sampson, athletic director at Livingstone College, says the priority now is getting student-athletes home safely and ready to return to campus in February.
“I met with all three of my head coaches, and we discussed the next phase of this scenario,” Massie-Sampson said in a statement. “We will see what the science, data and common sense says when they return to determine what our next steps will be.”
Initially, the conference suspended competition for fall and winter because several member schools are located in states experiencing dramatic increases in new Covid-19 cases. North Carolina — home of the CIAA headquarters and seven of its 12 member institutions — reported more than 7,500 new cases on Dec. 11, which the state’s Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen called “staggering and alarming.” The number of new cases had decreased to 4,770 cases as of Monday.
“This was not an easy decision or one that was taken lightly by the CIAA board,” said Virginia State University President and CIAA Board Chair Makola Abdullah. “We all want to have a season, and we want our student-athletes, coaches and staff to have a season. However, the data, which changes almost daily, does not support such a decision. The potential risk outweighs the desire to play.”
In Baltimore City, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people or less under its latest executive order. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people or less.
Last month, CIAA Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Communications Ben Baxter told us that approximately 155,000 people attended the 75th annual tournament in Charlotte — a 10% increase from 2019.
CIAA officials noted that some of the 2021 basketball tournament events will be held virtually during the last week of February, including Fan Fest and the CIAA Step Show, to engage fans. The conference says it will decide on spring seasons and championships at a later date.