By Jeff Uveino
BROOKLYN, NY — When Mark Schmidt and his players took time for media availability on Monday, the Coronavirus’ impact on the Atlantic 10 tournament was an afterthought.
The Schmidt-led St. Bonaventure men’s basketball was set to leave for Barclays Center the next day, with its sole focus on finding a way to win the tournament as the No. 5 seed.
Just over 48 hours later, the conversation regarding the virus and its impact on sports completely changed when a chain reaction of cancellations and restrictions erupted across social media.
Around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, it was announced that all NCAA tournament games would be played without fans in attendance.
As NCAA conferences around the country made the decision not to allow fans to attend their respective tournaments, the Atlantic 10 followed suit at 9:13. About 30 minutes after that, the NBA announced that it was suspending the remainder of its season.
However, the decision that hit closest to home for the Bona community came as No. 8 Massachusetts and No. 9 VCU were set to tip-off Thursday’s A-10 tournament action.
Moments before the game’s noon start, the league announced that its championship tournament would not be played.
As did every other conference in the nation.
In an unprecedented series of events, the world of sports seemingly shut down over the course of 24 hours.
And, as it did, a Barclays Center scene that otherwise would be filled with thousands of A-10 basketball fans from across the northeast turned into a ghost town.
As the league held a press conference shortly after announcing its decision, the heavy mood of the room was one of deflation and disappointment.
“The very precautionary decision-making to protect our student-athletes, all of our support staff, our coaches, our administrators, and the public and family members, is something that I think everybody across the country is doing right now,” said A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade.
Later in the afternoon, the NCAA announced that it was canceling ‘March Madness,’ as well as the remainder of every winter and spring sport championship this season.
By the time media members left the arena on Thursday evening, the entire sports world had seemingly come to a stop.
The conversation in Brooklyn was no longer about the tournament. It was no longer just about college basketball.
A postseason, or entire upcoming season, was taken away from college athletes in a matter of hours. Not to mention the high school and professional athletic cancelations.
VCU coach Mike Rhodes best summed up the emotion of the day.
“There weren’t any dry eyes in our locker room,” Rhodes said. “When our seniors sat down and realized they wouldn’t be putting on a uniform again, that was tough.”
As the Coronavirus’ impact spreads, so will the emotion that enveloped the A-10 on Thursday.
However, Rhodes and UMass coach Matt McCall made light of the situation when asked about Thursday’s game.
I thought Coach Rhodes had a great idea,” McCall said. “He said, ‘Let’s me and you play one-on-one in our suits here and we’ll battle it out that way.”
“I’m for it,” Rhodes added. “That would be good TV.”