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ChronSports' Top 10 of 2020 — No. 1: The impact of COVID-19 on Duke athletics

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As 2020 comes to a close, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest stories of the year in Duke athletics. Each day, we will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year for the Blue Devils. Check out the rest of the top 10 here.

Coming in at No. 1: The COVID-19 pandemic brings Duke athletics to a screeching halt and continues to shape the sports world today.

On March 7, Duke men’s basketball played North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium in front of a packed house and the usual deafening roar of Crazies. And while anything can happen in the Tobacco Road rivalry, few could have predicted that this game would be the end of the Blue Devils’ season.

Over the course of the following week, a domino effect of cancellations swept across the world of sports, Duke being no exception. During the morning of March 12, individual conferences began cancelling their men’s basketball tournaments. By that afternoon, the NCAA cancelled all winter and spring championships and the ACC suspended all athletic activities indefinitely.

As these difficult decisions were being made, Duke stood at the forefront of the ACC, with President Vincent Price as the difference-maker. According to The News and Observer, Price was initially the only ACC president in favor of suspending all athletics and cancelling the ACC tournament. Within mere hours, however, everyone else followed suit.

The disappointment of fans paled in comparison to that of the players, whose seasons (for many their last) was pulled out from under them. Spring athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility, but the same could not be said for the winter athletes who missed out on their postseasons.

After a historically long offseason, Duke took more precautions than most to ensure the safety of fall sports. Every home game was played without fans (save for some cardboard cutouts), student-athletes were more isolated than the general student population and all athletes of sports deemed higher risk by the ACC Medical Advisory Group were tested daily (compared to the conference’s testing requirement of three times per week).

While credit must be given to Duke for its extensive response, it’s hard to argue that the 2020-21 seasons have been a complete success. 

Nearly every week brought news of postponed games, mostly due to positive tests in other programs. These reactive measures worked to some extent, but Duke’s luck recently ran out. After a home game against Louisville, women’s basketball discovered two positive tests within its traveling party. The program first suspended activities indefinitely, with the team’s players later making the onerous decision to opt out of the season.

2020 may be coming to an end, but the grueling fight to keep playing remains.

READ MORE on COVID-19's impact on Duke athletics:

Duke suspends all athletic activities due to coronavirus concerns

ACC, Duke officially cancel all athletic competitions and practices for 2019-20 year

President Vincent Price announces additional safety protocols as athletic teams return to play

Duke women’s basketball cancels remainder of 2020-21 season

Column: The catch-22 of Duke women's basketball canceling its season

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