Less than 24 hours after holding its first spring football practice, USC suspended camp Thursday amid nationwide concern over the outbreak of coronavirus.
USC had two remaining practices scheduled this week before a week off for spring break. The university’s announcement left the door open for practice to continue at a later date. But as collegiate sports quickly entered a state of quarantine Thursday, the future of spring football practices across the nation remains in flux, like most everything else.
The suspension of USC’s spring practice came shortly after the Pac-12 canceled the remainder of its men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas, as well as all other Pac-12 sports competitions “until further notice.” The USC men’s basketball team was scheduled to take on Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon.
USC had originally planned to open its spring football practices to the public. Tickets were already on sale for the Trojans’ Spring Showcase, which was slated to take place at the Coliseum on April 11.
But no fans were allowed at USC’s first spring practice Wednesday, with attendance limited to essential personnel, including players and their families, coaches and support staff, and credentialed media. Post-practice interviews with players and coach Clay Helton were held at a six-foot distance, in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
Helton praised university President Carol Folt and athletic director Mike Bohn for their response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The sad thing is we do have to take the measures to be able to put us in the safest environment,” Helton said Wednesday. “For our fans, I apologize, but we have to do what’s best.”
Those measures quickly escalated in the hours after the Trojans’ opening practice. Within the hour, USC extended its window for holding classes only online until April 14. By Thursday morning, conferences began canceling their basketball tournaments en masse.
The Pac-12 was among the last of the major conferences to make the decision, but took the proactive step to cancel all athletic competition. The suspension of spring football followed soon after.
“The one thing we’ll always do is protect our students and our student athletes,” Helton said Wednesday, before the mass cancellations began. “If the [spring] game is canceled, it’s canceled. But right now we’re status quo.”