Chicago State University's Elliott Charles was a young administrator who feared he had "committed career suicide" when he decided to cancel basketball games due to a budding medical crisis.
On March 4, 2020, the little-known school became the first of North America's four major leagues or NCAA Division I to cancelgames due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Charles, the school’s athletic director, recalled that he felt extreme palpitation after making the decision two years ago. "It's not what athletic directors do. We are not epidemiologists. I am not a politician."
When the pandemic began, the decline of sports is often discussed.
Instead, the majority of the sports world points to the cancellation floodgate from March 11 when an NBA game between the Thunder and Utah Jazz was abruptly canceledmoments prior to tipoff.
After that, the dominoes fell rapidly as college basketball conferencetournaments were cancelled one by one during the second week. The spring baseball training ended abruptly on March 12. The NCAA basketball tournament also known as March Madness (one of America's most important sports events) was cancelled that day.
Charles' boss, Zaldwaynaka, the university president, recently admitted that she didn’t know, although it is now common knowledge, that Covid-19 is particularly dangerous for immunocompromised patients such as those with cancer.
She said that she had limited information about the spread of the virus or the dangers it posed to students and staff at school.
"We were far behind in science. Scott stated that no one knew the vulnerabilities of anyone to it.
"There wasn't a vaccine and not much information about how it was transmitted. We were talking about surfaces, and wiping down groceries.
Dan Lebowitz is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society, Northeastern University in Boston. He said that being the first athletic program to close down was not an easy decision.
Lebowitz stated that it's easy to jump on something moving, has momentum, and people believe in. But to be the first to say that, people don't view you as an exception. They might think you are insane. Let's not forget to give them credit if that's how the groundswell began.
Chicago State's men’s team was set to go west to face Seattle University on March 5, 2020 and Utah Valley University March 7. The women's basketball team was set to play the same schools in Chicago on those days.
However, Seattle was the nation's coronavirus hotspot prior to that week.
On February 29, the first confirmed death due to the virus was reported in Seattle, prompting Washington Governor. Jay Inslee declared a state emergency. (Months later it was discovered that the U.S.'s coronavirus death in its first week had occurred near San Francisco.
It may seem absurd to think that Seattle was more dangerous than Chicago. However, Covid-19 has killed more than 958,000 people in America and at least 5,000,000 people around the world, with no regard for borders.
Even so, it was a concern for a two-time survivor of leukemia like Lance Irvin who was the Chicago State men’s basketball coach, that he would be able to board a plane to the Pacific Northwest. On March 1, he shared his concerns with the school administration.
"Back then, things were happening and nobody knew why." Irvin stated that people were dying everywhere and the last thing I wanted was to take children into this situation and then call their families to say that something had happened to my child. "From that perspective, that's terrible, and I didn’t want to be responsible."
Charles called a lot of health professionals, coaches, and administrators to address Irvin's concerns. Before Charles could ask Scott for his support to cancel the games, Scott reached out to Scott.
Charles stated, "I was concerned that I was going to commit career suicide if these games were canceled." "I have never seen anything like it."
Charles, 38, was hired at Chicago State three months prior to the pandemic. He previously held positions in the athletic department at the University of Alabama and Florida A&M University.
Charles knew of a friend from Clemson who is from Wuhan, China. He had been following the news from this region for some time. He was well-versed in the virus when it arrived on American shores.
Charles jokingly said, "I recall thinking, 'My godsh, Elliott Charles actually saw something that was important,'" Charles laughed.
He said that the call whirlwind that culminated in March 4 cancellations was "terrible." It happened very quickly.
Chicago State's announcement was made one week before the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic.
The men's team did not take to the floor that spring and the women's team played only once before going into hibernation.
Misty Opat was the women's coach at that time. She said that the cancellations shocked her.
"At the moment, I believe you do question it. There had been some cases in Seattle, but not enough to warrant a panic. So it was like, "Are we overreacting?" Opat is now the women's coach at Cochise College in Arizona.
"In hindsight, we weren't. I admire the president's foresight and have complete respect for her. At the time, however, I wondered, "Why aren't we the only ones doing it?"
Ines "Nesi", a Cougars forward, was particularly hurt by the cancellation. Her Senior Night celebration was cancelled. She had been traveling from Spain to Chicago for it.
Boix believes that Chicago State officials did not communicate their reasons for cancelling the contract properly at first. However, any disagreements or disappointments over pulling the plug were quickly swept away.
Boix, now playing for Vantage Towers Alcobendas in the second division in Spanish women's basketball, said, "My mom was sad but she didn’t know what was happening."
"She didn't understand what was happening until she returned to Spain. A few days after her return from Chicago, the situation in Spain was dire."
The men's team players knew that their coach had survived cancer. Therefore, game cancellations were discussed internally the week prior, according to Xavier Johnson . Johnson was Chicago State's top scorer at the time and is now a graduate student at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Johnson recalls his first thought when he learned that the trip was cancelled. It turned out to have been a huge understatement.
"It was almost like, "Oh wow, could this Covid stuff really get out of control?" He said.
Scott stated that she was confident in the school's decision at the moment. Scott stated that even if the coronavirus was immediately controlled and Chicago State was the only school to cancel games, she would not regret supporting Charles' recommendation.
She said, "The decision is instructive in hindsight -- when faced with facts that create a lot more uncertainty for your students' health and wellbeing, the default should always be what's best for students." "Always."
Since the pandemic, both basketball programs have had to change coaches. However, they are still trying to find ways forward.
The women were between 0-14 in 2013 and are now 4-22. There is one remaining contest.
The men were 0-9 during a Covid-abbreviated 2021 season. They are now 7-23 with one remaining . Seattle was the Cougars' first trip there since 2019..