Missouri high schools reverse course, cancel state basketball championships amid coronavirus concerns

·5 min read

While it initially appeared the Missouri State High School Athletics Association was going to defy both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the state government, cooler heads prevailed. The MSHSAA reversed course Monday, canceling its basketball state championships amid concerns of spreading the coronavirus.

As recently as Sunday, the MSHSAA still planned to go ahead with its basketball state championships this weekend, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

The MSHSAA was reportedly scheduled to host the Class 4 and 5 state basketball semifinals and championships next weekend on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield. The organization has already held its Class 1, 2 and 3 tournaments this weekend, with limited attendance.

MSHSAA to limit attendance, screen for fevers

Games were expected to begin Thursday and end on Saturday. The MSHSAA was planning to limit attendance if the games took place.

"We're in the process of making some adjustments even to what we did this past weekend," MSHSAA spokesperson Jason West said, per the News-Leader. "We'll be in contact with Missouri State and local officials to see what they have to say. As of right now, as of this evening, we still plan on playing basketball on Friday."

As far as those adjustments go, the reported change would have included giving 100 wristbands to schools instead of 150 like this weekend. Additionally, all players, coaches and media would have been screened for fevers before entering the arena. If any player had a fever, the entire team would have been turned away.

West reportedly told the News-Leader that no schools — even ones in St. Louis that have closed down due to coronavirus — have told the organization that they can’t participate.

Of course, all of those precautions didn’t bring the MSHSAA anywhere close to what authorities are recommending. Here’s a sampler:

CDC: Coronavirus is dangerous, don’t do this

The same day the MSHSAA said it was going ahead with the tournaments, the CDC announced recommendations against gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. It specifically mentioned sporting events as gatherings that should be avoided:

Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.

Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.

If you want a refresher of the math here, there are four teams left in each bracket of the Class 4 and 5 tournaments, and a boys side and a girls side. That means 16 teams would have competed this week.

Even disregarding players and coaches who are absolutely not immune to the highly contagious virus, the MSHSAA would have reportedly allowed 1,600 total wristbands to be distributed for four different tournaments.

The MSHSAA had previously released a statement extolling the CDC’s advice. The MSHSAA followed that advice Monday.

Missouri governor: Coronavirus is dangerous, don’t do this

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson echoed the CDC's recommendation in a statement strongly urging the cancellation or suspension of public gatherings of 50 or more people:

“As we are all aware, concerns over COVID-19 continue to grow across the state and the nation. In accordance with CDC recommendations, my administration and I strongly urge the cancellation or suspension of public gatherings of 50 individuals or more with the exception of educational institutions, daycare facilities, and business operations,” Governor Parson said. “We encourage local governments and health agencies to provide the same guidance. To protect our elderly citizens and those with underlying medical conditions, we would ask them to avoid public gatherings as much as possible.”

That’s in addition to the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump.

Again, well more than 50 people were set to attend the tournaments.

Tourney host Missouri State: Coronavirus is dangerous, don’t do this

Missouri State University, whose campus the tournaments are scheduled to be played on, announced an events restriction on its campus Friday:

Missouri State is canceling all university-sponsored events with greater than 250 attendees scheduled to occur prior to April 15.

In addition, university-sponsored events with less than 250 attendees will be assessed for risk to the campus community and the attendees.

The university is also working with promoters who have leased our facilities to discuss their specific event and make them aware of the community’s guidelines.

Since the MSHSAA championships are not university-sponsored, they didn’t need to heed the call of the Missouri State leadership. Thankfully, the MSHSAA listened.

BOWLING GREEN, OH - JANUARY 11:  A general view of the game ball resting on the court at the end of the game is seen during a regular season Mid-American Conference game between the Akron Zips and the Bowling Green Falcons on January 11, 2020 at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio.  (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Pretty much every authority is telling the MSHSAA not to do this. (Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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