PA Sports World Rocked, NCAA Tourney Canceled As Coronavirus Shutdowns Pile Up

Written By Kevin Shelly on March 12, 2020 - Last Updated on March 13, 2020
PA sports arenas emptied during coronavirus pandemic

In head-spinning rapid succession, the world, sports, and sports wagering have changed due to the coronavirus. It’s gone from a time of caution to a declared global pandemic.

Flights to and from Europe, except for the United Kingdom, are on hold due to COVID-19, the official name of the disease.

Rudy Gobert, an NBA player for Utah Jazz who cracked wise about the disease and then touched every journalists’ mic and recorder, has tested positive and is in isolation. A second player on the team has also tested positive.

Gobert’s reported illness set off a domino effect, with games being canceled before the NBA officially suspended the pro hoop season. Several teams that had recently played the Jazz, including the Washington Wizards, have taken precautions including self-isolation.

Updated Friday, March 13: The PGA, which initially planned to play on without a gallery, has suspended the tour overnight.

The Boston Marathon will be postponed from April 20 and rescheduled for September 14.

NBA, college hoops and now NCAA Tournament canceled

So, no 76ers games for now. College hoops have followed the NBA’s lead, apart from the Ivy League, which canceled their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on Tuesday.

The Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, American Athletic Conference, Pac-12 and Atlantic 10 all canceled their men’s basketball conference tournaments within minutes of one another on Thursday morning. And then virtually every other conference followed, with the Big East halting play at halftime of the St. John’s and Creighton game.

The NCAA Tournament is now also on the cancellation list after several top teams, including Duke and top-ranked Kansas, withdrew Thursday morning. The NCAA later announced the remaining NCAA tournaments and championships are canceled. Sorry folks, no March Madness this year.

Wells Fargo gets a deep clean, Philly and Pittsburgh cancelations

The Philadephia Flyers’ home at the Wells Fargo Center is closed and getting disinfected. Also, the entire NHL season has been halted, according to ESPN.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers have both told their scouts to stop traveling to top college players’ pro days in advance of the NFL Draft, according to YahooSports. No word on the draft being canceled, so far, though.

Philadelphia has canceled its St. Patrick’s Day parade, which was set for this coming Saturday. Pittsburg’s parade is also off. And if you have Broadway show tickets for anything coming up, adjust your plans. Broadway theaters are closing their doors for a month.

Montgomery County, PA hit hard as schools and universities close

Colleges and universities in PA are either staying out on extended spring breaks or are shifting to online classes.

PA Gov. Tom Wolf called Montgomery County northwest of Philly the “epicenter” of the virus in PA. At least 22 cases in PA have been reported there, and every public school in the county is closed for at least two weeks.

Valley Forge Casino in King of Prussia is in Montgomery County and was still open as of Thursday afternoon, but announced in the evening it would close early Friday.

At the time of writing on Thursday, PA has tested 219 Pennsylvanians for the virus. Of those, 116 have tested negative, and 81 tests are pending, according to the state.

Updated March 13: Philadelphia closed 63 schools as of Friday because the parents of a large percentage of students in those schools work in Montgomery county. The district has resisted an overall closing because so many students get meals via the school system. The Mastery charter school chain has closed all of its Philly schools.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia had made Mass optional.

Other PA casinos remain open for now, according to TribLive. But that of course could change at any time.

More league cancellations, suspensions and delays

The ATP tennis tour is suspended for six weeks.

The MLS has suspended soccer matches, as have some overseas leagues.

Major League Baseball has suspended spring training games. They also announced Thursday afternoon the start of the regular season would be delayed at least two weeks. Opening Day was scheduled for March 26.

NASCAR’s Dixie Vodka 400 race on March 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is postponed, although NASCAR could still decide to run the race without fans.

The XFL announced the LA-Seattle game Sunday was still on, but would be played without fans in the stands. A later tweet indicates the league may have a change of heart.

Staying safe in a strange time

To learn more about the virus and tips on staying safe, see this article with information provided by PA doctor Christopher Drumm.

And as my Columbia University journalist friend Stephen Stirling, who is currently in self-isolation following exposure at a conference, just wrote in a newsletter:

“It’s OK to be a little freaked out by all this. We all are.”

Editor’s note: This situation is extremely fluid. We will continue to update as more changes are announced.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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