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NAIA cancels 2020 spring sports season

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has canceled its 2020 spring sports season as a preventative measure against the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Southern Oregon University is an NAIA school and is part of the Cascade Collegiate Conference. The announcement ends the school's 2020 track and field and softball seasons.

"We know this is extremely disappointing, especially for our student-athletes," a Cascade Collegiate Conference news release reads. "All possible options for maintaining the spring season were discussed at great length by multiple governance groups. However, the growing state of emergency due to COVID-19, as well as the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation yesterday to limit gatherings to fewer than 50 people for eight weeks, meant we could not in good conscience move forward, possibly putting student-athletes, staff, and fans at risk."

The SOU softball team won the NAIA national championship in 2019, and was set to defend its title.

Spring sport student-athletes will not be charged for the season, and those enrolled in school full time will be awarded "two additional semester terms of attendance or the equivalent," a news release reads.

Grier Gatlin, who coaches distance runners on SOU's track team, said the team's next steps are unclear at this point.

"In an ever-changing and fluid situation that none of us has ever had to deal with, I don't know that there's an answer," Gatlin said, adding the team had decided on Friday to practice in small groups, but that the protocol could change again. "We're trying to do the socially responsible thing, and as more and more information comes out from reliable sources like the CDC and things like that — which is good — we're finding that maybe even that isn't a good idea, to continue small group practices."

For the time being, distance runners will receive individual training regimens.

"That's, at least, how I'm going to approach it," Gatlin said.

Gatlin said the decision is disappointing, but that he accepts it.

"What do you do? We also want this to go away as quickly as possible," he said. "If people like Tony Fauci and the CDC are saying 'Hey, let's social distance and let's keep this down for, you know, a month or two, and then probably things will get back to normal,' then let's just try to do the best we can to get it back to normal, whatever that means."

The cancellation announcement followsOregon School Activities Association’s decision to suspend practices and contests through March 31. The NCAA also canceled it's men's and women's basketball tournaments last week.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.

FILE PHOTO: Southern Oregon University against Oklahoma City at the NAIA Softball World Series in Springfield, Missouri on May 29, 2019.