The Arkansas Activities Association announced Thursday the cancellation of spring sports for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year as well as state championships.
It also canceled the Arkansas High School Coaches Association coaches' clinic and All-Star games, and the AAA's spring activities.
At a glance
• The Arkansas Activities Association canceled the remainder of the spring sports season Thursday. State championships set for baseball, softball, soccer and track and field have been called off, as well as the AHSCA’s All-Star coaches’ clinic and All-Star games set for June in Conway. Arkansas is one of 22 states to cancel spring sports this season.
SPORTS AFFECTED Baseball, softball, soccer, track and field
STATES THAT HAVE CANCELED SPRING SPORTS Arkansas, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming
AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday that the decision to call off the spring sports schedule -- which includes baseball, softball, soccer and track and field -- was a difficult but necessary one because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"This is their passion, their sports," Taylor said. "This is their time. They have the same passion as the other athletes in other sports. It's gut-wrenching.
"It's a hard decision. But we had to do it for the health and safety of our kids."
Arkansas is one of 22 states that have canceled spring sports this year. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
Taylor said the AAA had multiple conversations with the Arkansas Department of Health, the governor's office and the Arkansas Department of Education regarding what to do with the state's athletics. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the closing of schools for the remainder of the school year Monday.
When looking at Arkansas' situation, Taylor said he and the AAA board of directors looked at other states and what they were doing, but acknowledged every state is different. There were discussions about playing spring sports in June, Taylor said.
Almost a month after instituting an athletic dead period once spring sports events finished March 14, the AAA pulled the plug on the rest of the season.
"I don't know if this was the right time to make the decision," Taylor said. "But we had to look at it long term. We have to keep the kids separated for their health and safety. Not only for them, but for the parents and grandparents. The virus can spread so quickly."
Taylor added the AAA is considering lifting the two-week dead period set for June 21-July 5 should school facilities be safe to return to for athletic workouts for fall sports.
The baseball, softball and soccer state championships were scheduled for May 22-23. State track meets were set for the week of May 4-8, and the sport's Meet of Champs and Decathlon/Heptathlon were scheduled for May 16 and May 20-21, respectively.
The Arkansas High School Coaches Association's coaches clinic and All-Star games were scheduled for June 24-27 at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Taylor said that the All-Star basketball teams will be announced at a later date, in part to honor the seniors that would have played.
Spring sports weren't the only activities affected by the pandemic.
On March 12, the AAA postponed the final two days of the state basketball finals, set for March 13-14 with the Class 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A boys and girls games still to be played. The AAA announced Monday the cancellation of the remainder of the basketball finals and named the finalists as state co-champions.
Fountain Lake Athletic Director Marc Davis said he felt bad for the athletes and coaches across the state and at his school.
"It's a sad day for those seniors," Davis said. "This is all about the kids, to keep them safe and healthy. I'm sad that the kids won't get to showcase their talents this spring."
Harrison girls soccer Coach Chris Pratt, who is also the school's athletic director, wasn't surprised by the AAA's decision.
"We all knew it was coming," said Pratt, who led the Lady Goblins to a Class 4A state championship last season. "I was glad it was made today [Thursday] instead of waiting any longer. We'll all never forget this time. I hope it makes us all appreciate what we have."
Pratt said that during a recent Zoom meeting with his players, they weren't sure what was going to happen to their season.
"There were a lot of blank faces," he said. "They didn't want to accept it and just wanted to move forward."
Davis wasn't caught off guard, either.
"We're at the mercy of the virus," he said.
Fall sports aren't scheduled to begin until August. Davis hopes those sports -- football, volleyball, cross country, golf and tennis -- can be played as well as having school resume for 2020-21.
"In our situation, athletics and extracurricular activities play a huge part in the community," Davis said. "Kids have better grades, attendance and less disciplinary referrals.
"I hope the country and the world as a whole can get to normal. I'm sure we won't be shaking hands anytime soon. But from Fountain Lake to Garland County to the state of Arkansas, people need to get out and socialize. We want to keep the kids safe so we can get back to school."
Sports on 04/10/2020
Print Headline: All spring sports get canceled by AAA