Savannah State athletic director Opio Mashariki held a virtual press conference on April 1 concerning the athletic department’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The sudden end of spring sports has been disappointing for all of us,” he told the local media.
On May 12, all SSU team activities were cancelled.
“Our primary concern is always the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Mashariki said in a press release.”We also want to follow the lead of the conference office concerning the cancellation of spring sports. At this time, we feel it’s important to take every precaution to contain the spread of COVID-19 and canceling our spring sports, both games and practices, is the right decision.”
When SSU halted its spring sports competition schedule, the Tigers baseball team had a 7-8 record and was preparing to start SIAC play by hosting Miles in a three-game series, starting March 14. The men’s golf team was coming off of a fifth place finish at the Benbow Invitational which was played in Jacksonville Beach, Florida on March 8. The men’s track team was getting ready to travel to nearby Statesboro to run at the Georgia Southern GATA Classic on March 13. On March 7, SSU hosted the Orange and Blue Track Meet and placed fifth out of nine teams.
The women’s golf team also competed in the Benbow Invitational and finished 14th. The softball team was 8-11 overall but had a 3-1 conference record. The Lady Tigers had won six straight before a 7-6 loss to Kentucky State in the first game of the SIAC Crossover which was being played in Jasper, Alabama. The tennis team, under the direction of newly hired head coach Chuck Keenan had a 1-9 record and was preparing to host Division I Radford on March 13. The women’s track team, like the men, were getting ready to participate in the GSU GATA Classic. A week earlier, Savannah State finished fourth out of eight teams at their Orange and Blue Track Meet. Jahvene Walder won the women’s high jump and was a part of the SSU 4x400m relay team that won their event. Others on the 4x400m relay team were Jaylen Sewell, Danielle Chambers and Simone Johnson.
Mashariki stated that they have been working closely with the university administration, University System of Georgia and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference office in their decision making.
Although the university as a whole is participating in social distancing, Mashariki added that he has been in communication with his athletic staff and SSU coaches have been in communication with their student-athletes by way of webinar, telephone, text messages, etc. “Coaches check in on athletes regularly and they (staff) have weekly staff meetings by webinar.”
The NCAA recently granted Division II student-athletes from spring sports an extra year of competition.
While Mashariki thinks this was a good move by the NCAA, the university must look at its finances to determine how they will proceed. “We are waiting to hear from the NCAA as to how it affects revenue sharing from the SIAC.”
Mashariki said that the department did not take a big financial hit because of the cancellation of spring sports because they ended up saving money on operation costs as far as travel and paying game officials.
Mashariki added that they will also have to look at what seniors plan to return. “We will make a assessment and move forward from there.”
The state of Georgia has been hit hard with COVID-19 cases in the Atlanta area as well as Albany. Masharki said that there are no known cases of the virus among any SSU student athletes, coaches or staff members.