Former Madison Cub Olivia Crozier, shown in action earlier this season against Kentucky, saw her season end on Thursday when the NCAA made the decision to cancel the women’s basketball tournament. Crozier’s Samford Bulldogs had qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2012. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Former Madison Cub Olivia Crozier, shown in action earlier this season against Kentucky, saw her season end on Thursday when the NCAA made the decision to cancel the women’s basketball tournament. Crozier’s Samford Bulldogs had qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2012. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Olivia Crozier said when she heard Thursday that the NCAA had canceled this year’s Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Tournaments, it brought her to tears. But unlike millions of fans across the country lamenting that decision, Crozier had a personal stake in the game.

Crozier, a 2015 Madison Consolidated High School graduate, is a fifth-year senior at Samford University, where the Bulldogs’ women’s basketball team earned its third-ever bid to the “Big Dance” and first since 2012. A reserve center, Crozier was looking forward to capping her college career in style.

“I’m literally sick to my stomach. One of my teammates said to look at the bright side, at least we get to go out as winners,” Crozier said Thursday evening. “But at the same time, people worked for this and the NCAA Tournament is a once in a lifetime experience, especially for the seniors ... For us seniors, it was like we had just played in our last game and we had no idea.”

Cancellation of the NCAA Tournaments were just one part of a topsy-turvy day in sports as leagues and entities braced themselves against the effects of the COVID-19 virus, or Coronavirus. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons indefinitely, Major League Baseball opted to shut down spring training and push the start of the regular season back several weeks, and the new XFL football league canceled the rest of its regular season.

Fears over the threat of spreading the virus even extended to the IHSAA, which has opted to postpone its boys basketball regional tournaments this weekend. IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said the decision on whether to cancel spring events would be left up to the individual schools.

Locally, Jefferson County schools will be closed until April 5 and all sporting events will be postponed until that date.

Trimble County has canceled all athletic activities until March 27 and a KHSAA moratorium has canceled all events until April 12.

The Lide White Memorial Boys & Girls Club, which has normally been open during times of school-wide sickness, has changed that policy and will not allow any child whose school has been closed due to illness or preventative measures to attend the club, including all sporting activities.

Hanover College has followed the NCAA’s lead and has canceled all campus activites through the end of the spring season. All students have until March 22 to vacate campus and as a result, all sports events have been canceled.

The men’s NCAA basketball tournament was scheduled to begin on Tuesday with the women starting next Saturday. After going 18-14 and winning the Southern Conference regular season and tournament championships, Samford was preparing for its one shining moment.

Initially, the NCAA had decided to play the first two rounds with no spectators other than immediate family and essential personal. But on Thursday, the organization changed its mind.

Crozier said that she found out just like everybody else, on Twitter, and it wasn’t a decision that sat well with her.

“What really sucks is that we didn’t get a chance to find out from our coach, we found out on Twitter when they announced it,” Crozier said. “It would have been nice to have had a note from her first but she never had the chance.”

Unlike most student-athletes, Crozier not only has skin in the game as a player, she is also a registered nurse who will begin working at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center on March 30. As a nurse, Crozier saw the steps that the NCAA and others were taking to stop the spread of the virus as necessary, but the student-athlete in her didn’t necessarily agree.

“I fully understand what they are doing. The best way to stop the spread of this is to limit big crowds and limit exposure. One person could come to one of these games and infect 100 people and that’s just unacceptable,” Crozier said. “I would have been OK with playing the games with nobody in the gym and allowing people to watch it on TV. That way the games could go on and the players would get a chance to live out their dreams. I understand what they’re doing and it’s even the right thing, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.”