The ball stops  bouncing: NCHSAA, NCISAA to halt play; The Brittany XVI suspended

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Following the lead from professional and collegiate sports leagues, the fallout from COVID-19 reached the high school and local levels Thursday afternoon.

On a day where the NCAA announced it would cancel its winter and spring sports championships for 2020 — including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball championship — the North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced that it would be suspending all interscholastic competition after the conclusion of Friday’s contests through Monday, April 6 and postponing all eight of its basketball championships indefinitely. Earlier in the morning, the association announced that the championships would be held in front of limited audiences before amending their decision to postponement by afternoon.

In addition to games, the suspension of high school sports as governed by the NCHSAA also covers workouts, skill development and practices.

“As much as we would like this opportunity for our student-athletes, coaches, and their communities, we know that ultimately any decision we make must err on the side of caution,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said in a release.

The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association announced Thursday afternoon that all scrimmages and games would be suspended indefinitely beginning Friday, although NCISAA members are permitted to conduct practice and training sessions “at their discretion.”

“It goes without saying that the NCISAA is committed to the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and member schools,” Executive Director Homar Ramirez said. “We will continue to navigate this situation with the health and safety of all our constituents as the top priority.”

The North Carolina Christian School Association has yet to announce any plans related to the suspension of play.

Additionally, the long-running Brittany Willis Memorial Scholarship Showcase, which was scheduled to observe its 16th edition beginning Friday, was suspended for 2020 on Thursday, citing the number of out-of-town guests and teams that annually congregate on the grounds of J. Burt Gillette Athletic Complex. The Brittany XVI was scheduled to host 82 teams across 53 matches and announced its intention to suspend prior to the NCHSAA’s edict.

“The (Brittany) board put athlete safety first,” Wilson Parks and Recreation Department recreation manager Richard Frazier said. “It’s different playing a single match with 50 to 100 people. With 80 to 100 teams bringing in 5,000 or more people, it’s that the board didn’t have much other decision to make. It’s the Spirit of the Brittany — always putting the participants first. We try to send a positive message to young women, and the decision we made here is right on line here.”

In a nod to the traditional end-of-round ceremony at The Brittany — where participating teams present a donation to the Brittany Willis Scholarship Fund while receiving sportsmanship awards — Frazier said that at least “half a dozen” teams asked for a mailing address with which to send a donation check.

The wording of “suspension” versus “cancellation” was deliberate, Frazier indicated, so that The Brittany could return in 2021 branded as The Brittany XVI.

“We wanted to stay in tradition,” he said. “We wanted to make it just as special as all the rest.”

Barton College announced in an alert to students and faculty that classes and school-sponsored events would be paused beginning Friday and running through Thursday, March 19.

On Thursday night, NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas, the league in which Barton resides, announced in an email that all competition involving its members is suspended until further notice.

“We fully understand the ramifications of what this means for our student-athletes, coaches and administrators who put in so much hard work daily for their institutions, but we feel this is the right decision currently,” Conference Carolinas Commissioner Chris Colvin said. “Our first priority is always the protection of our student-athletes along with our coaches and administrators. I would like to thank all of our presidents and administrators for working together to help us make this incredibly tough decision.”