NCAA UK vs AU

UK huddles up before the start of the game. University of Kentucky men's basketball team lost to Auburn 77-71 in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 31, 2019, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors have decided to cancel all men's and women's winter and spring championships due to concerns over COVID-19. 

In a statement, the NCAA said:

"This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities."

In addition to canceling its tournament, the SEC has announced the suspension of all regular season competition for teams in all sports on SEC campuses until March 30. That means the NCAA Rifle Championships that were supposed to be held in Lexington on UK's campus this weekend have been canceled. 

Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari released a lengthy statement on the news:

“Today’s news has stunned all of us. It’s just now sinking in for me. As disappointed as we all are, this was the right decision for the health of our nation. 

“I’m saddened for everyone. My heart is broken for our guys, but I’m equally as disappointed for the thousands of student-athletes across the country in all sports and at all levels who won’t have a chance to experience that shining moment that they’ve worked so hard for. 

“It’s a tough situation. It was hard to tell my guys they won’t have a shot at what they’ve been working for all year – as I’m sure it was for so many other coaches across the country. But there are bigger things at stake here and I understand the decision. It’s no one’s fault. 

“As for this team, I’m really going to miss this group. I’m so disappointed they didn’t get to experience a run in the NCAA Tournament because they’ve worked so hard and they deserve it. They were so good to each other.

“I don’t say this lightly: I think I had the national championship team, and this group should go down as one of the most loved teams in my tenure here.

“I want our fans to think in terms of, what if we had made it to the Final Four? What if we had won the whole thing? I hope our fans remember them like that. By winning the league by three games this year showed who they were.

“They had a chance win every game because they played hard, they played together and they pulled for one another. Every player was the best they had ever been as an individual.

“As I’ve said with my other teams that were Final Four teams and the national championship group, we never had a bad practice. Some of them may have been a little better than the others, but not once did I walk out and say, “That was awful.” Not once this year. 

“I met with them as a team on the way back to Lexington and I’ll have individual meetings with them tomorrow so they can figure out what’s next. We’re still working through all that. Whatever that is for each individual player, we’ll be there every step of the way for them. 

“I’m going to say it again: I’m going to miss coaching this group.”

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart delivered a message to student-athletes, coaches and staff in wake of the devastating cancelations. 

“We always have believed college athletics is a force for good in our world. In ordinary times, you inspire with your achievements in competition, in the classroom, and in communities," Barnhart and Capilouto said in a statement. "These are not ordinary times. We have never been in a position to do more good than we are right now - by making this difficult decision and accepting it with grace. 

“The decisions made at the conference level, and now by the NCAA, are in the best interest of the health, safety, and well-being of all of you. They are in the best interest of all those who share in our joy and passion when they watch you perform at such a high level."

You can read the Kernel's previous story on the SEC cancelations here.