By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
The Oxford Wildcats boys basketball team’s season came to an end in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) District No. 5 semifinals with a loss to the Clarkston Wolves on March 11, but it looks like the boys’ campaign would have concluded regardless.
On March 12 at 2:25 p.m., the day before the district championship game between Clarkston and the Lake Orion Dragons, the MHSAA announced the immediate suspension of all winter tournaments due to concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Thirty-five minutes later, 3 p.m. on March 12, the MHSAA released a statement, courtesy of Executive Director Mark Uyl.
“Based on the events of the last 48 hours and with things changing by the minute, we believe we have no choice but to suspend our winter tournaments immediately,” the statement read.
“This is a suspension until we have a better handle on the situation. The health and welfare of everyone involved is our number one priority.”
Uyl added the MHSAA, made up of nearly 750 member high schools across the state, would be sharing more information in the coming days, and fans did not have to wait long.
Hours before Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s school closure announcement on March 13, the MHSAA widened their suspension to include all sports from March 16-April 6, the same time frame as Whitmer’s recommendation.
“By suspending all sports activities for the next three weeks, we are taking an additional step to maintain safety and minimize risk first, and also keep a level playing field for our schools and teams during this time of uncertainty,” Uyl said in another prepared statement.
“A number of schools across the state already were making this decision and setting this as the standard across our membership is appropriate especially given the quick pace with which this situation is continuing to evolve.
“Given the rapid, fast-moving and unprecedented events of this week, the MHSAA will use the time during this all-sport suspension of activities to evaluate all options and next steps which will be shared with our member schools in a timely manner.”
Oxford’s athletic department, headed by Director of Athletics Jordan Ackerman, released a statement of their own on March 13.
“The MHSAA has directed all member schools to suspend activities in all sports for all seasons – effective Monday, March 16 until at least Monday, April 6 – to fall in line with Gov. Whitmer’s order that all schools close for the next three weeks to deter the spread of COVID-19.
“All athletic activities are to be halted, including practices, scrimmages and competitions/games, as well as strength training, conditioning and any other organized sessions and activities in all MHSAA in-season and out-of-season sports.”
The Wildcat student-athletes most directly affected by this suspension are the ones participating in spring sports. These sports include Kenny Allen’s softball program, Dave Herrick’s baseball team, John Thaler’s girls soccer squad and others.
It is currently unknown whether the spring student-athletes will have the chance to compete in an abbreviated season, or if the year will be canceled outright.
By Teddy Rydquist