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Bruce Gallaudet: The day the Earth stood still

This week marked two months since the day the Earth stood still … at least in my sports world.

It was Thursday, March 12, and my wife and I were in Anaheim. I was to have covered the Big West men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The four-time regular-season champion UC Davis women were locked and loaded for a return trip to The Big Dance while men’s coach Jim Les was his usual confident self. Despite a 14-18 overall record, his Aggies finished mid-pack in conference and were playing better basketball.

365体育投注But there were storm clouds on the horizon — literally and figuratively.

365体育投注Earlier that week, the first- and second-round games of the women’s tourney had already been played. The front-running UCD women earned a double bye and would only have to win Friday and Saturday to advance. The men were to have first taken the court on that fateful Thursday.

365体育投注But the coronavirus, something that U.S. leaders had kind of pooh-poohed throughout January and February, was now a serious topic of discussion.

365体育投注The previous week, it was decided that this basketball event — the signature party of the Big West sports year — would be played without fans. The 18,336-seat Honda Center would contain only teams and those who were being called “essential attendees.”

365体育投注While my wife and I had breakfast at the hotel, we watched as ESPN announced that the Ivy League had canceled its postseason hoops tournaments. There were rumblings that other conferences might follow. Then, my phone rang …

It was 9:30 a.m. On the other end was UC Davis sports information director Eric Bankston: “I’m sorry to have to report this, but the Big West has canceled the rest of the tournament. The decision was made in the interest of players, staff and media well-being … and each of the conference’s regular-season champions will advance to the NCAA.”

Bankston’s message was clearly a shock. I remember my question back to him: “The men are out? The Aggie women will play again next week?”

365体育投注Bankston confirmed both. It was a bittersweet moment for Aggie Nation, but a feel-good story was coming with the UCD women participating in March Madness.

365体育投注I just wasn’t prepared for what March Madness meant in 2020.

365体育投注As busy as the day would have been just executing my assignment of covering playoff basketball, activity now ramped up. The Enterprise would need to break the story with as much information as possible.

365体育投注I texted Les, whose team was preparing to head to the Honda Center for a shoot-around. I texted women’s coach Jennifer Gross: “Congratulations … and I’m sorry,” is how I remember starting that message. Her Aggies hadn’t left Davis yet for Anaheim.

365体育投注Reaction from players was also on my agenda. An unusual story was at hand, maybe bigger than just a game report. After wolfing down a couple more bites of egg, we took our coffees to go and I was back in our hotel room only two minutes before my phone rang. “Oh, good, Jim got right back to me,” I thought.

365体育投注But again it was Bankston, disguised as the Grim Reaper …

365体育投注“I was just informed that Duke and Kansas have suspended their seasons. The NCAA has an announcement in 10 minutes. The Big West has another release coming out sometime before noon.”

In less than an hour after that second chat with Bankston, The Davis Enterprise website would declare: “In an 11th-hour act of precaution, citing concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Big West Conference announced just before noon Thursday that all of its spring sports had been suspended until further notice.”

The NCAA’s cancellation of March Madness was explained, and a paragraph below that, UC Davis weighed in by suspending all remaining winter and spring competition, “effective immediately.”

365体育投注“This affects teams of all conference affiliations, and includes out-of-season activity such as spring practice seasons for fall sports,” the university said in a prepared statement.

Early that Thursday morning, I had awakened, hoping to be the bearer of good news that night, something like “Aggie men stop Hawaii, 104-70.”

365体育投注Now, I was writing an obituary.

As we drove home that night, rain followed us for 400 miles. Totally appropriate. After all, the sky was falling.

Looking back, all of it was bad news that day the Earth stood still. Looking forward, the planet still isn’t spinning. Not even a little bit.

That ringing you hear in the background? My phone screen says “Eric Bankston.” I don’t think I’ll answer.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or call 530-320-4456. Follow Gallaudet on Twitter: @BGsportsinDavis.

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