The Kansas Jayhawk Conference, in response to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus and following the trend of sports associations around the country, announced on Thursday that no games will be played by any member schools from March 13 until April 1.
The presidents of the conference made the decision at the recommendation of KJCCC Commissioner Carl Heinrich.
“Working through uncharted waters, it was a recommendation we needed to make,” Heinrich said.
“This is a day-to-day thing. The utmost is the safety and security of our student-athletes. I’m not sure anybody knows how this thing is going to work. It’s the power of the unknown that has us very concerned. Are we making a decision to the conservative side? Absolutely.”
In addition to seven conference schools that had their national basketball tournaments postponed by the NJCAA, all springs sports are now on hold in the conference for the next 19 days.
Thursday’s move by the KJCCC also comes on the heels of the NCAA calling off all winter and spring sports championships.
“It’s about the safety of every and all of our kids,” Labette Athletic Director Aaron Keal said. “We’ve seen it done nationally. Now it’s coming down to the state and local level and impacting everyone. None of us are medical people, so it’s hard to deal with. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and never seen this happen.”
At Labette, the women’s basketball, baseball and softball teams are the ones directly affected. Women’s basketball is in limbo as it awaits to potentially play in a national tournament that is tentatively rescheduled to April 20. Baseball started KJCCC play last week, while softball was slated to start conference play next week.
“We have to watch what happens,” Keal said. “In the last 24 hours alone, everything has changed 100%. We’re trying to give our athletes time to be safe as well as do research to figure out what will take place in the near future.”
The NJCAA previously told schools across the country that if any school canceled its entire season on or before April 3, and less than 60% of the season had been played, all student-athletes on those teams would be granted hardships and not lose a year of eligibility.
The end of the KJCCC’s temporary stoppage of play runs two days prior to that deadline.
Schools around the conference, and country, will have to reckon with whether or not they are able to or even want to continue their seasons.
“There’s a lot of open questions for how they’ll pursue the hardship with scholarship numbers,” Labette softball head coach Ryan Phillips said. “If you return both your classes plus your incoming class, that presents some problems. That’s something that’ll have to be taken care of on the NJCAA’s end and we’ll have to abide by it.”
Labette baseball head coach Alex Coplon told the Sun shortly after returning from a doubleheader on Thursday that he hadn’t yet figured out how to handle the stoppage of play.
Phillips added that he will continue to practice with his team during the stoppage if the school and conference allows it.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the kids’ futures,” Phillips said. “If we feel that it won’t be any detriment or athletically to continue to go to practice and be able to practice, we’ll continue to do so. But I told them to be cautious and take all the measures they can. But we’ll do what’s best for them.”
An emergency response team at Labette is scheduled to meet on Friday to discuss the ongoing situation.
“It’s really amazing but not in a positive way,” Phillips said. “It seems like every hour, something shocking is coming out. It’s an odd situation that I don’t even know as a head coach what to do. I’ll do what’s best for our players.”