Labette Community College’s athletic department is continuously monitoring the spread of the coronavirus as it deals with a stoppage of play.

The NJCAA announced on Friday that all sports are suspended until April 3 as the association continues to implement measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement came one day after the Kansas Jayhawk Conference announced a stoppage of play from March 13-April 1.

“We’re sticking with the NJCAA,” Labette Athletic Director Aaron Keal said. “It’s up to each individual college as far as practice is concerned. We’re all in agreement to take a few days and gather some more information next week.”

Labette’s baseball, softball and women’s basketball teams are the three programs directly affected by the stoppage. Baseball started KJCCC play last week, softball was scheduled to start conference play next week and the women’s basketball team is awaiting a start of a tentatively postponed national tournament.

The NJCAA also announced that student-athletes teams who cancel their seasons due to travel restrictions or other measures related to the coronavirus will be granted hardships and not lose a year of eligibility if less than 60% of the season has been completed. Previously, teams had to make a decision on season cancellation on or before April 3 to qualify for hardships.

“As we continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation as it impacts our member colleges, the NJCAA has made the decision to suspend all spring competition through Friday, April 3 along with the postponement of basketball championships until April 20,” the NJCAA’s statement read. “The NJCAA is also extending the hardship season completion ruling to 60% — should teams cancel their season before the limit is reached, student-athletes will not be charged a year of eligibility.”

Multiple coaches around the KJCCC indicated to the Sun that they are bracing for the possibility that the spring season will be canceled.

Keal said any decisions to cancel baseball or softball seasons will be as a result of NJCAA or KJCCC mandates.

“It’s not going to be an individual college’s decision whether athletics continue this spring or not,” Keal said. “It’ll be a uniform decision made by the national office or regions or conferences. It will be made that way.” 

Administration at Labette met multiple times on Friday before Keal met with his entire coaching staff. 

“We’ll respond to every update every minute, every hour,” Keal said. “It’s a volatile situation. So you’ve got to be able to change and make decisions.” 

Labette announced on Friday evening that face-to-face classes will be suspended on March 16 to give faculty time to alter courses. After spring break, which starts on March 23 and ends March 30, classes will be held online or through other alternative teaching methods.

With Labette’s athletic programs composed of student-athletes from around the country, travel is a concern to monitor. Keal said the dorms will remain open.

“We’re going to do what’s best for them as far as their safety,” Keal said. “If they choose to stay here instead of going to a highly-populated area, they should stay here. If their parents feel more comfortable with them being at home, then by all means that’s what needs to be done.” 

The NJCAA also said in its statement that teams that cancel seasons will be allowed to increase its number of Letters of Intent to accommodate returning athletes who received hardships as well as incoming freshmen.

“For the 2020-21 season, the NJCAA is also increasing its allowable number of Letters of Intent which will be vetted by the Eligibility Committee,” the statement said. “Our goal is to look after the safety and security of all involved, while also still providing a pathway to allow opportunities for our student-athletes and the ability to compete for a national championship. The NJCAA will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

“You’re going to have to extend more LOIs for the spring sports,” Keal added. “Then it comes down to the individual’s choice. If you’re graduating and signed, it’ll be a choice for each athlete and school.” 

The NCAA, which canceled all upcoming winter and spring sports championships for the year on Thursday, announced on Friday that student-athletes affected by cancellations of season will be granted hardships and maintain a year of eligibility.

The NCAA also suspended all on-campus and off-campus recruiting on Friday. The NJCAA has yet to announce any recruiting restrictions at the time of publication.

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