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Duke suspends all athletic activities due to coronavirus concerns

Duke President Vincent Price has suspended all Duke athletics.
Duke President Vincent Price has suspended all Duke athletics.

Duke President Vincent Price has announced in a statement that the school is suspending all athletic activities, effective immediately. This will include games and practices for all sports.

“We are taking this action to protect the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and others who are essential to these activities,” Price said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “I know it is a great disappointment to our student-athletes and coaches, whose hard work and dedication to their sports and Duke is inspirational to so many, but we must first look out for their health and well-being.  This is clearly an unprecedented moment for our university, our region and the wider world. As we take steps to confront the spread of this virus, I’m grateful for the cooperation and support of the entire Duke community.”

In Price's previous statement on Tuesday that announced Duke's extended spring break and move to online classes, he said that the school is "postponing, cancelling or virtualizing any Duke-sponsored in-person event with expected attendance of more than 50 people taking place on-campus or off-campus between now and April 20."

However, Price also noted that "further guidance on athletic events will be forthcoming." This new statement appears to be the announcement we were waiting for.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced Wednesday that the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments would proceed without fans in attendance, with the ACC announcing the same for the rest of its own men's basketball tournament later that day.

That was all before Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus Wednesday night and the NBA subsequently suspended its season. Since then, nearly all conference tournaments have been cancelled, including the ACC men's basketball tournament.

According to an article from The News & Observer, Price was instrumental in the conference's decision to cancel the ACC tournament, and that his choice to suspend all athletic competition for his school was one that "the other 14 presidents [within the ACC] and the governor all refused to make."

The article also said that Price was what made the difference between Thursday morning, when ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced the tournament would play on, and just a few hours later, when it was cancelled and Florida State was awarded the conference championship.

At the time of Price's statement Thursday, there was still no word on whether the NCAA tournament would be postponed or cancelled. But even if it continued as planned, it didn't appear that Duke would be participating.

"We emphatically support the decision made by Dr. Price today regarding the suspension of athletic competition at Duke," men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in the Thursday afternoon statement. "The welfare of our student-athletes, and all students at Duke, is paramount, and this decision reflects that institutional priority. Certainly, I want to applaud Dr. Price, who took a leadership role with his presidential peers and the Atlantic Coast Conference in arriving at this decision.”

Duke athletic director Kevin White also commented on the situation in the release.

"During this unpredictable time, Duke Athletics fully supports all measures to protect the health and welfare of the Duke family and beyond,” White said. “While we understand this may be daunting to many, please know that this decision is entirely in the best interest of all student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans.”

Just a few hours after Duke's decision, the NCAA cancelled all winter and spring championships and the ACC suspended athletic activities as well, marking the likely conclusion of the season for all Blue Devil sports currently in play.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.

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