The 2021 sports world is already being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This week, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) has already pulled the plug on next year’s men’s and women’s basketball seasons. The organization manages not only basketball, but football, bowling, cross country, golf, softball, volleyball, women’s tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field.

Many were excited to see the start of the 2021 basketball season, which was scheduled to begin in less than a month on January 9, 2021. However, with Covid cases on the rise nationwide, the association was forced to start making difficult decisions. According to the News & Observer, the football season was already canceled, and next year’s volleyball season —which was already moved from fall to spring— was totally cancelled too.

Jacqie McWilliams

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 continues to challenge the conference’s ability to see a clear path to move forward collectively,” said CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams in a statement. “I want to commend our Board of Directors for exemplifying courageous leadership in college sports to ensure the well-being of the CIAA as well as the health and safety of our student-athletes and communities.”

Unfortunately for the conference, schools have been pulling out as well. Virginia State University, for example, announced the cancellation of its basketball season at the beginning of this month. Many were fearing the rest of the conference would follow suit.

Virginia State President and CIAA Board Chair Makola Abdullah came together to make a statement on the unfolding events. “This was not an easy decision or one that was taken lightly by the CIAA Board. We all want to have a season, and we want our student-athletes, coaches and staff to have a season. However, the data, which changes almost daily, does not support such a decision. The potential risk outweighs the desire to play,” they said.

The effects of the pandemic have been devastating, and the future is still uncertain. Baltimore, which was set to host next year’s week-long basketball tournament, has been deeply impacted by a reduction in tourism. A virtual experience is being planned to substitute the tournament week itself.

For now, schools can still play any booked or contracted non-conference games up until January 9. However, sadly no CIAA schools are being permitted to play any games after that date until further notice.