Conference nixes holding Big 12 Golf Championship in wake of NCAA cancellation

In an update to the below story, the Big 12 announced Friday evening that no spring sports would take place including the Big 12 Golf Championship that the Big 12 golf coaches had hoped would be allowed April 27-29 at Southern Hills Country Club.

Here is the statement from the Big 12 office:

“Due to the on-going developments related to COVID-19 the Big 12 Conference announces that all organized team activities whether organized or voluntary, including team and individual practices, meetings, and other organized gatherings, have been suspended until March 29 and will be re-evaluated at that time.  In addition, all conference and non-conference competitions are cancelled through the end of the academic year, including spring sports that compete beyond the academic year.”

So it appears the teams may be able to resume practices at some point but any tournaments are not going to be allowed.

Following is the earlier story in which Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl and Oklahoma State coach Alan Bratton had lobbied for the chance to play the Big 12 Championship in the wake of the NCAA’s cancellation of the NCAA Championship.

By Ken MacLeod

When the NCAA added spring sports championships to its list of cancellations due to the COVID-19 outbreak Thursday, it went beyond the more cautious three-to-four week timeframes of most other organizations, including its own conferences.

For the golf teams at top-ranked Oklahoma and No. 24 Oklahoma State (current Golfweek rankings), it suddenly and shockingly left only the potential of a Big 12 Championship scheduled April 27-29 at Southern Hills Country Club to play for this spring. And that is not at all certain.

The Big 12 Conference has postponed all spring sporting events until March 29 at which time it will reevaluate.

The Sooners were on their way to the airport Thursday to go to Tucson, Ariz., for the N.I.T. Sunday through Tuesday when they were told to hold off. By 11 a.m., coach Ryan Hybl said that event was canceled. By 3 p.m., they were told the NCAA Championship, scheduled May 29-June 3 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., was canceled. The Women’s NCAA Championship, scheduled May 22-27 at Grayhawk, is also canceled.

“We’re just kind of shocked,” said Hybl Thursday evening. “It’s hard to talk about what this means to us personally while we’re waiting to figure out in a few more weeks what’s going on with our country and making sure everyone is safe. But if this team doesn’t get a chance to go out and play, it’s going to be very disappointing and disheartening. I feel terrible for our seniors, they’ve all worked very hard to be in this spot.”

OU has four seniors, including two in Quade Cummins and Garret Reband who are candidates for national honors, while the other two in Thomas Johnson and Riley Casey are frequent contributors. The NCAA is expected to grant an extra year of eligibility to athletes who are seniors this spring at both the Division I and Division II levels.

For the moment, Hybl said the Sooners will take off for spring break while hoping they at least get the chance to compete in the Big 12 Championship. All coaches in the conference expressed support for that event to be played via email yesterday.

Oklahoma State, which has a much more international flavor to its squad than the mostly Oklahoma and Texas natives on the Sooners, will stay in Stillwater and practice through spring break, coach Alan Bratton said Thursday night.

Bratton said he was pleased that the Big 12 Conference, unlike the NCAA, said it would take a pause and reevaluate in a few weeks rather than canceling events that are not scheduled until months from now. Golf, played outdoors and really requiring no physical contact between players and very easy to limit or even disallow spectator access, would seem to be relatively easy to conduct in safety, as well as tennis and perhaps other spring sports.

“I’m proud of our conference that did the responsible thing and shut things down but said let’s not cancel until we have more facts,” Bratton said.

“We’re going to continue to practice as usual. Right now, we still have an opportunity to play the Big 12 Championship and I’m hoping that holds true.”

While the Big 12 teams await a decision on their championship, golf teams across the state at the Division II level have ceased to practice. Chris Brannick, assistant athletics director for media relations at the University of Central Oklahoma, put out the following statement this morning.

“The University of Central Oklahoma is taking action to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, including: the extension of spring break by one week for students; cancellation, postponement or adjustment of campus events through April 30; suspension of university sponsored travel until further notice; and, self-reporting of spring break travel for faculty, staff and students. Visit the university website for Coronavirus Updates and Resources to learn more.”

Brannick said more than 200 men’s and women’s athletes in spring sports were affected and that it was possible though unlikely that any competitions would resume this spring.

At Oklahoma Christian University, also NCAA Division II, sports information director Murray Evans said the Lone Star Conference has officially suspended all activities until March 30, but what happens after is still a very fluid situation. The OC men’s golf team was ranked No. 7 in the country.

Tournaments scheduled in Oklahoma that will be affected include an NCAA men’s regional that was scheduled May 17-19 at Jimmie Austin University of Oklahoma Golf Course, the UCO Broncho Invitational March 16-17 at Oak Tree Country Club; the Rogers State Hillcat Classic March 16-17 at Bailey Ranch in Owasso, the Greater Athletic Conference Men’s Championships April 19-21 at The Territory and the MIAA Men’s Championships April 20-22 at Shangri-La Resort.

The Sooner Athletic Conference men’s and women’s championships are also scheduled in Oklahoma as is the 2020 NAIA Women’s National Championship, currently listed May 12-15 at Lincoln Park hosted by Oklahoma City University. The NAIA has canceled its winter sports championships, but there is no word yet on whether it will cancel its spring championships.

The men’s and women’s golf championships are currently officially “suspended,” according to OCU women’s golf coach Marty McCauley. OCU will go to two weeks of online classes after spring break next week and no practices or events will be held until at least early April, but there remains the possibility that the school will not have classes on campus at all this spring. McCauley said he is not optimistic but has not ruled out that the national championship could still be held at Lincoln Park. His team, including lone senior Melissa Eldredge from Eufala, met Thursday before heading home for at least three weeks.

“It was a somber tough meeting because everything is just uncertain,” McCauley said. “You don’t know if it’s the last time we’ll be together as a team.”

Golf teams at Oral Roberts University learned today that their spring seasons are over. Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple announced Friday that all spring sports have been canceled given the current status of COVID-19. This cancellation includes all non-conference, conference and championship competitions for Summit League members through the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

“The decision yesterday to suspend spring sports for the month of March gave the League roughly 24 hours to collect as much information as possible,” Douple said. “After we imposed the suspension, the NCAA announced the cancellation of all its spring championship events.

“Based upon that announcement and discussions with members of our Summit League Presidents’ Council last night and into this morning, we determined it is in the best interest of our student-athletes, our staffs, and our fans to proceed with cancelling all spring competitions.”

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Ken MacLeod

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