Texas Longhorns

Game over: Title dreams become a nightmare for Texas as coronavirus concerns lead to cancellations

Posted March 12th, 2020

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On paper, Texas’ women’s basketball team had their schedule set for the next few days.

The Longhorns were supposed to practice on Thursday afternoon before meeting West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament Friday night at the Municipal Auditorium. If things went well, the Big 12 semifinals awaited on Saturday, maybe the championship game on Sunday.

Worst-case scenario? Even if Texas’ stay in Kansas City was a short one, there was still a scheduled team watch party for the NCAA Tournament draw on Monday.

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That all has been dramatically altered, though. Due to the rising concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, the Big 12 canceled both its men’s and women’s tournaments on Thursday. Later in the day, the NCAA announced that its winter and spring championships would not be held this year either, including the NCAA Tournament.

UT forward Joyner Holmes hugs head coach Karen Aston after she and fellow senior Sug Sutton, right, left their final home game at the Erwin Center on March 8, 2020. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
The abrupt and unceremonial end to the season leaves a program in flux. Texas coach Karen Aston’s contract was to expire after this season, but that timeline was essentially expedited on Thursday. Texas also has five seniors on its roster.

Three of them — Sug Sutton, Joyner Holmes and Lashann Higgs — have professional aspirations, so they will one day lace up their shoes again. But senior starter Jada Underwood plans on soon becoming a teacher. Sophie Taylor, a graduate transfer who has appeared in three games, is studying accounting in the McCombs School.

“I feel terrible for the seniors that are involved in this tournament,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said earlier in the day. “It unfortunately could be the last basketball that they’re going to have a chance to play as college kids.”

The NCAA’s announcement ended both of Texas’ basketball seasons. (The Texas men were set to meet Texas Tech in a Big 12 Tournament game on Thursday). It also sent shockwaves through the rest of the UT athletic department back in Austin.

The softball team will no longer have a shot at winning its first national championship. The Longhorns are currently ranked third in the nation.

Texas was favored to win another national championship in men’s swimming and diving at the end of the month. But the NCAA won’t crown anyone now. This weekend’s indoor track and field championships also are nixed.

There won’t be a NCAA outdoor track championship, either. Texas and Myers Stadium was to host that in June. Oh, and UT’s 14-3 baseball team no longer has a College World Series to aim for and the men’s tennis team must now wait until 2021 to defend its 2019 national title.

Just before Texas and Texas Tech’s scheduled tip at the Sprint Center, Bowlsby held a press conference to announce the cancellations of the Big 12 tournaments. The conference later suspended all regular-season competitions, recruiting and out-of-season practices until March 29.

So conceivably, Texas’ spring sports could resume playing in a couple of weeks. They, however, will not have national championships to chase.

Texas coaches and players were not made available to the media on Thursday. Some of their thoughts eventually began to filter through their social media platforms. Sutton tweeted that she was simply “speechless.”

Following his team’s 9-1 win over Abilene Christian the night before, UT baseball coach David Pierce said, “You want to think, well maybe it’s a little public paranoia, but at the same time it sounds pretty serious. We’re going to do everything we can to protect our university, our athletic department and our team.” On Wednesday, Texas had originally restricted the access to its home events through March 22.

Thursday’s news means that the start of the Texas Relays and the retirement of legendary softball player Cat Osterman’s jersey are off the books. Both events were scheduled for March 25.

For Texas, the first football practice of the spring was set for March 24. That also won’t start until March 29 or later.

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