UPDATE: The SEC announced March 13 that it has suspended all athletic activities, including competitions, practices, workouts and team meetings, until April 15. The move suspends all springs sports, as well as spring football practice.
For more details, see the story below and check back for further updates.
When the NCAA and SEC announced that the NCAA Basketball Tournaments and other athletic events would be canceled due to the Coronavirus, no one was more disappointed than Dawn Staley and her No. 1-ranked Gamecocks.
The SEC champions, which lead the nation in attendance, were in line to be the top national seed and host the first two rounds of the women’s tournament at Colonia Life Arena. Third- and fourth-round games were scheduled for Greenville, a likely destination for the No. 1-ranked Gamecocks. But those events and others were suddenly canceled March 11-12 due to health precautions surrounding the rapidly-spreading virus. The SEC canceled the men’s basketball tournament and suspended all other athletic events until at least March 30.
"This is a difficult time with so many conflicting emotions,” Staley said in a statement March 12. “First and foremost, we have to recognize how important it is to do the right thing for our community. Sports is a big part of our lives, but just one part of how we are connected to each other. We need to step back and think about the larger good served by canceling events that put people at risk.
"As competitors, we are certainly disappointed that we will not have the opportunity to contend for a second national championship. That said, it will not diminish the way we look at our season, how we value our body of work over the last four months. We have measured ourselves against the best in the country over that time and will embrace and relish that accomplishment.
"For our seniors and the others throughout the country, who will not have the chance to finish their careers the way they expected to, that's a tougher, more emotional thing to process. Again, we have to lean on that this is the right thing for everyone's health and safety.”
After three days of rapidly changing updates, the SEC announced on March 13 that it had suspended all athletic activities, including competitions, team and individual workouts and practices and team meetings, until at least April 15. It had previously suspended all competitions through March 30, but expanded those restrictions after further developments and mass cancelations and suspensions of sports leagues and athletic competitions across the nation.
All university athletic practices and team workouts were suspended on March 13, with team meetings prohibited after 5 p.m. on March 16. The university extended its spring break through the week of March 16-21 and considered moving to online classes beyond that.
The restrictions suspended all South Carolina spring sports as well as spring football practice and the April 4 Garnet & Black Spring Game. The SEC had previously suspended all on-campus and off-campus recruiting. No decision had been announced by press time on March 13 on Will Muschamp’s annual Spurs Up Tour.
South Carolina announced it would issue refunds for tickets purchased for canceled events.
"The safety and well-being of our student-athletes, fans, coaches and staff is the most important responsibility we have in our athletics department," Athletics Director Ray Tanner said. "The decision to suspend athletics competition through March 30 was a difficult decision for everyone in the league.”
The suspensions and postponements fell in line with similar restrictions from universities and athletic conference in the country, as well as the suspension of the NBA, NHL, MLB and other professional sports leagues and events.
"This is a public health situation that many of us have never experienced before," Tanner said. "Decisions have been and are being made with as much information as possible as expeditiously as necessary.”
As of press time, the NCAA, SEC and South Carolina were still working through issues related to the cancelations and season suspensions. The NCAA was considering granting an extra year of eligibility to student-athletes whose spring sports were suspended. It was also considering whether to grant a similar waiver to basketball players and athletes in other winter sports that did not get to compete in postseason tournaments and championship competitions and how such changes would impact scholarship and roster limits.