SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Much has been said about college athletics losing its seasons, which included the wildly popular NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. While much of the country was focusing on Selection Sunday and how their brackets would work out, the NAIA had already started its March Madness.
In South Dakota, nine teams from Indiana, including Grace College and Indiana Wesleyan University, were among the 32 teams that had already embarked on its pursuit of excellence. Nine games had already been finished in the Division II National Championships that began March 11. But as word from the NBA, which had two players from the Utah Jazz test positive for coronavirus early in the week, and later several other sports organizations began postponing and canceling events, the NCAA and its tributary wings began to follow suit.
In this two-part series, we will take a look inside the decision-making circumstances that included Grace College athletic director Chad Briscoe as he became immersed into an incomparably fluid situation in South Dakota. Then later with his own NCCAA tournament both the Lancers and Lady Lancers were likely to have been involved with a week later at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center.
Up first, the NAIA Men’s Basketball Div. II National Championships.
“The amount of change that unfolded in 48 hours was unlike anything I have seen or experienced in athletic administration,” Briscoe said. “It seemed like I was working with Josh (Neuhart, Grace sports information director) and our administration on a new press release every few hours.”
Wednesday, March 11
7:30 a.m.: Briscoe spoke to the Warsaw Optimist Club breakfast meeting sharing that the NCCAA Div. I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships are on for next week and how Grace will be taking safety measures to provide hand sanitizer stations at both entrances during the four-day tournament and, as of then, things were on schedule as normal.
4:38 p.m.: The NCAA announces that fans will not be allowed to attend games due to coronavirus.
9:31 p.m.: The NBA suspends the 2019-20 season “until further notice.”
9:15 p.m.: NAIA President Jim Carr sends a press release stating that due to the widespread health risks posed by COVID-19, it will limit fan attendance at all remaining winter championships. The attendance will be limited to only essential staff and limited family members.
“The snowball effect of the NCAA and the NBA impacted things quickly,” Briscoe said. “On Wednesday as I informed the Optimist Club about the tournament and passed out tickets we were set with sanitizer stations and by the end of the next day things were canceled.”
Thursday, March 12
12:21 a.m.: The NAIA Div. II Basketball Championships issue an email stating that only official party members (student athletes, official party, athletic trainers, honorary coaches, VIP’s and media) will be allowed in the Sanford Pentagon. Additionally, each team remaining in the championship field will receive 100 wristbands for family and friends allowed to attend games.
11:40 a.m.: Briscoe calls Grace College head coach Scott Moore and Marcus Moore to inform them that the NAIA Div. II Basketball Championship has been canceled immediately. Coach Moore shares with the team while they are waiting at the Sanford Pentagon to play the next game at the tournament.
11:44 a.m.: The NAIA cancels all winter championships, including those underway. The Lancers were scheduled to tip off their first game of the tournament at 2:45 p.m. against West Virginia Tech.
5:00 p.m.: Briscoe calls Scott Moore to inform him to share with the men’s basketball team that the NCCAA Div. I basketball championships have been canceled.
“Difficult to have our men’s basketball program hours from tip-off for their first trip to the national tournament in a few years,” Briscoe said. “Also first year head coach Scott Moore and his first postseason coaching experience.”
Friday, March 13
11:30 a.m.: Briscoe has an NAIA NAC call to discuss spring sports if they are to continue or be canceled for the remainder of the year.
5:11 p.m.: Carr sends out an email detailing that any resulting decisions for spring sports will be shared on Monday with the membership.
Monday, March 16
11:00 a.m.: The NAIA announces all spring sports seasons are canceled for the year.
“Today was the first time I didn’t know what to say,” Moore said of the initial announcement and reaction. “To be honest, what do you say? Although this obviously didn’t end the way anyone had planned, it doesn’t change the impact that these young men, especially the seniors, have had. Not only on me, but our team, campus and the entire program. (Seniors) David (Holden), Marty (Schiele), Jaret (Sons), Braxton (Linville) and Chuck (Warner) have left this program in a great place, and I will forever be thankful to have been their coach.”