CLEMSON — The ACC on Tuesday announced the cancellation of all athletic activity through the end of the 2019-20 academic year, effectively ending Clemson’s spring football practice, including the April 4 spring game.
The SEC followed suit after a Tuesday conference call with its athletic directors. All spring sports, including spring football games and championship events, are canceled. And later Tuesday, the Southern Conference — one of the last Division I leagues holding out hope to salvage something from the spring season — also canceled “all athletics-related activities for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.”
The SoCon is home to state schools The Citadel, Wofford and Furman. The Citadel was able to get in all of its spring football practice before the cancellations hit. Its baseball team ends the season with a 10-6 record after winning just 12 games all of last season.
“My heart breaks for those student-athletes who will not get the opportunity to compete in Southern Conference regular-season and championship events this year as well as some potentially in NCAA championships,” SoCon commissioner Jim Schaus said. “However, protecting their health will always be most important and supporting their welfare our hallmark.”
Clemson got in nine of 15 scheduled practices before the spread of the novel coronavirus prompted mass upheaval in the sports world. South Carolina had completed five spring practices. The remaining 10, including the April 4 Garnet and Black Spring Football Game, are canceled.
“Our top priority remains the health and safety of our student-athletes as well as our fans, communities and the overall well-being of others during these uncharted times,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “We are particularly disappointed for our student-athletes and will continue to work with our membership to assess what is appropriate in the future.”
“This is a difficult day for all of us, and I am especially disappointed for our student-athletes,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “The health and well-being of our entire conference community is an ongoing priority for the SEC as we continue to monitor developments and information about the COVID-19 virus.”
The SEC’s move was expected after other conferences began doing the same, and after USC had extended its campus-wide spring break to include this week. Most of the Gamecocks’ student-athletes had already left to go home.
The ACC’s decision comes after a Clemson athletic department spokesperson on Sunday told The Post and Courier there were no spring practices scheduled after April 4. Clemson President Jim Clements had earlier in the day announced the suspension of all university events, programs and activities through April 5.
“Clemson athletics is in full support of the university’s announcement,” the athletic department wrote in a statement Sunday. “The priority at this time is the safety of our student-athletes, coaches and fans and mitigating the impact of COVID-19. We will continue to engage with the university, local authorities and the ACC as we look to act in the best interest of our community.”
Last Thursday, the ACC suspended all athletic activities and the NCAA canceled spring sports championships. Those actions left open the possibility that Clemson’s spring football practice — and non-revenue sports’ regular seasons and conference championships — could continue.
Instead, Tuesday’s announcement definitively marks the end for Tigers football practice and for the seasons of the softball and baseball teams, among others.
Softball, in its inaugural campaign, finishes with a 19-8 record. It won 11 of its final 12 contests. Clemson was going to create another chapter in the rivalry with its first game against USC. That game, set for April 7, in Columbia, was canceled.
The hope is that the game can be rescheduled for next season around the same time of year.
The baseball team finishes with a 14-3 record and as the No. 22 team in the nation. It was in the midst of a five-game winning streak, capped by a 3-2, 11th-inning victory over Winthrop last Wednesday.
The SEC has used an April 15 deadline for when practices, team meetings and the like could resume, but there was no word on if the Gamecocks could use their remaining spring football practice time after that date. A school spokesperson said that it was too soon to tell if the practices could be made up.
The conference said that all purchased tickets for the SEC’s baseball and softball tournaments will be refunded by March 31, as long as those tickets were purchased from the SEC office or a member school.
USC’s baseball season ends at 12-4 with a five-game winning streak.
The No. 16 Gamecocks’ softball team ended at 17-6. They were scheduled to play Clemson on April 7, creating another chapter in the schools’ rivalry. The hope is the game can be rescheduled for next season around the same time of year.
David Cloninger and Jeff Hartsell contributed to this story.
Follow Joshua Needelman on Twitter at @joshneedelman.