The inevitable happened Monday, as the Arizona Interscholastic Association canceled the spring sports season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. And it was the right decision.
I’m not sure why the AIA waited this long. The writing was on the wall that things were only going to get worse when it initially suspended athletics until March 30 and then to April 10.
I argued that point in my March 21 column, saying the AIA was holding onto foolish hope.
The AIA and its executive director, David Hines, could have shown leadership and taken the initiative to shut down the season two weeks ago. Instead, it played a passive role, waiting for decisions from Gov. Doug Ducey.
It was Ducey who initially closed schools until April 10. He made that announcement March 20, and the AIA said it would delay its decision until further notice from Ducey.
It was Ducey who finally forced the AIA’s hand Monday by canceling the remainder of the 2019-20 school year for all schools in the state. Just moments after his announcement, the AIA followed suit with a press release saying all spring sports were canceled.
Some have argued the AIA made the right call by waiting to make its decision.
But the hard truth is the AIA didn’t need Ducey to tell it how bad the virus outbreak was, and how it was continuing to spread.
Hines and his organization could have easily made that determination by looking at statements and data provided by scientists, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Monday morning, Arizona had reported more than 1,100 cases of the coronavirus, with 20 deaths. Those numbers will continue to increase. The best thing we can do as responsible people is to practice social distancing, wash our hands frequently and abide by other guidelines from health professionals.
Ducey made the correct move Monday, and even though the AIA didn’t need to wait, it has now made the appropriate decision as well.
“This is an unfortunate circumstance for all of our member schools, students and coaches,” Hines said in a statement. “We know this decision was a hard one, but one that was necessary to assist in the well-being of everyone across Arizona. We hope everyone stays healthy and focused on what the next chapter will bring.”
Canceling the spring sports season doesn’t make any of us happy. I want to report on sports; coaches want to coach, and players want to play. The right decision isn’t always the most pleasing one.
I feel especially bad for the seniors. We have some fantastic athletes in Pinal County who play spring sports. Whether it’s baseball, softball or track and field, those athletes are hurting. They know they will never play high school sports again.
And that senior season is special. It’s one that forges memories that can last a lifetime. For many athletes, it’s the culmination of years of hard work.
Jessica Mercado, a senior softball star at Casa Grande Union, was feeling sadness about the elimination of the remainder of her senior season, and she tweeted about it.
“Things I’ll miss this senior year: senior night; my last rivalry game; the after game interviews, even though I was so bad at those haha; away game memories; the last time I’ll step on the field, on the mound, in a Cougar uniform,” she wrote.
For the record, I’ll miss doing those interviews with you as well, Jessica.
Mercado and several others in Pinal County will play college sports. So thankfully, it won’t be the last time they ever put on a uniform and compete to be the best.
But college sports or not, I still feel for those seniors.