Keeping in sync with the sweeping cancellations and postponements that have hit the American sports landscape, non-Power 5 Division I programs in Arkansas will hit pause on their respective spring sports schedules for the foreseeable future.
The Sun Belt Conference, which the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas State University are members of, announced Thursday that the league suspended competitions in all sports indefinitely amid coronavirus concerns. Teams are still allowed to conduct practice if member schools so choose, according to the league.
The Southland Conference, of which the University of Central Arkansas is a member, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, of which the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff is a member, also announced that all sports competitions were suspended through March 30. All teams in the Southland are allowed to practice at the schools' discretion, but it was unclear as of Thursday night whether that was the case for the SWAC.
"There's just so much unknown right now," UALR Athletic Director George Lee told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday. "Everything you look at out there, you know, is it gonna get worse? Probably. We just don't know, and I think we're just trying to be very cautious about what we're doing.
"I think we have to protect the health of our student-athletes, but at the same time, the people that are coming to our games, you don't want to put a lot of people in proximity because we really just don't know what's gonna happen with the virus."
ASU announced Thursday that it canceled its spring football game, which was slated for Thursday at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro. The Red Wolves' March 20 pro day also has been postponed.
An ASU spokesman told the Democrat-Gazette that spring football practices for the Red Wolves are expected to take place on their normal schedule. ASU held its second scrimmage of spring camp Wednesday and has four more practices left, including one today. All other ASU sports teams in season are expected to continue practicing as well, according to a spokesman.
"We have been in communication with the Sun Belt Conference, my AD colleagues and our CEOs in order to take appropriate measures to ensure the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans during this time," ASU Athletic Director Terry Mohajir said in a statement. "This is obviously a very fluid situation, so we will continue to consult with the appropriate authorities in order to take the best course of action moving forward."
UCA Athletic Director Brad Teague told the Democrat-Gazette on Thursday that its spring football game, which was set for April 4, also has been canceled, but that spring practices will continue for the football team and all sports in season.
Teague said two UCA teams had to be pulled off the road Thursday, including the baseball team that was traveling to play a three-game series at Nicholls State, and women's golf team that was bound for a weekend tournament in Augusta, Ga. Both teams had returned to Conway by Thursday evening.
UAPB Athletic Director Chris Peterson could not comment as of Thursday evening on whether the Golden Lions teams, including football, would be conducting practices right now.
"My message to my coaches today was patience and flexibility," Peterson said. "Just take a deep breath, and let's just work through this together."
Lee said the Trojans' in-season teams expect to keep practicing.
"It's a really sad situation in a lot of ways," Peterson said. "You got young ladies and young men that have spent years and years to get ready [to] compete in the championship stage of their sport, and they're not gonna get to do it. My heart aches for a lot of people."
Sports on 03/13/2020
Print Headline: Most in-state schools turn to practice