TUSCALOOSA — Roughly an hour before it was scheduled to return to the field to kick off its annual spring practice schedule, Alabama’s football team announced it would join the rest of the sports world and postpone all activities in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Alabama has suspended spring football practices until further notice, including all football media-related activities,” the program announced over social media. “We will provide updates when more information is available.”
Even amid the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding the global health scare associated with the outbreak of COVID-19, it was business as usual inside the Mal Moore Athletic Complex as the Crimson Tide appeared on target to begin its usual 15-day practice slate around 3:30 p.m. Friday with head coach Nick Saban scheduled to hold a news conference about three hours later.
But neither of those will happen, at least not until after April 15 following the Southeastern Conference’s move to extend its suspension of all organized team activities through that date in an announcement midday Friday.
A little more than 24 hours after suspending all regular-season competition across all its sports through March 30 on Thursday, the conference moved the goal posts even further, and included “all team and individual practices, meetings and other organized gatherings” due to the continuing developments associated with the coronavirus. That means there will be no SEC college sports of any kind, not even practices or team meetings, through April 15.
The conference also dictated each SEC member institution would continue to provide student-athletes with “care and support to meet (their) needs in areas including academics, medical care, mental health and wellness, nutrition and housing as needed” according to a release.
Alabama was scheduled to practice about 3:30 p.m. Friday before student-athletes and coaches took a week-long hiatus as part of the university’s Spring Break with plans to resume practicing on March 23. Instead, the program shifted gear at literally the 11th hour following the SEC’s decision.
This move comes a day after the rest of the sports world was turned on its head with the widespread postponements or outright cancellations of events as a precaution to avoid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic spreading across the nation.
It’s been a wild couple of days in college sports, including within the SEC where the league canceled the remainder of its annual men’s basketball tournament in Nashville, Tennessee, roughly an hour before Alabama was set to play Tennessee at noon Thursday to start the second day of the five-day event inside Bridgestone Arena. The Crimson Tide were in the middle of going over pregame notes on a white board inside its locker room prior to pregame shootaround when the cancellation was announced shortly before 11 a.m.
The conference also announced it’d be suspending all on- and off-campus recruiting across all sports through the end of March, a move the NCAA followed suit with Friday when it announced a recruiting dead period for all sports until at least April 15, restricting all official and unofficial visits, in-person contact and evaluations during this time. Phone calls and text messages will be permissible.
The NCAA took the unprecedented move of canceling all its spring national championship events, including the NCAA men’s and women’s national championship tournaments scheduled to begin next week, along with the Women’s College World Series for softball and baseball’s College World Series set for late May and early June, respectively.
The University of Alabama also extended its annual Spring Break through March 29 and announced students would resume classes after that remotely until further notice and were asked not to return to campus.
Alabama was among the last remaining states in the country without a confirmed case until Friday when the state health department announced its first confirmed case of an adult male from Montgomery who fell ill after returning from out-of-state travel.