Thursday Sports in Brief

VIRUS OUTBREAK

The world’s sports schedule cratered at warp speed Thursday, with one of the biggest events on the U.S. calendar, the fun-filled and colorful college basketball tournament known as March Madness, becoming the first mega-event to be scrubbed due to fear of the spread of the coronavirus.

Leaders at all levels of sports, including the NCAA, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, golf, tennis and soccer, decided the risk of playing games with the threat of the virus hanging over them was too great despite the billions of dollars — to say nothing of the trophies, pride and once-in-a-lifetime experiences — hanging in the balance.

By late in the afternoon of an extraordinary, headline-a-minute day across a pandemic-rattled globe, the NCAA, which regulates March Madness and virtually all major U.S. college sports, basically had no choice. With conferences and individual teams calling off their basketball seasons at breakneck pace, the NCAA followed suit. They scrapped all college winter and spring championships, the highlight of which is the men’s basketball tournament — a three-week extravaganza that stands as the biggest event this side of the Super Bowl on the U.S. sports calendar.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments because of the spread of coronavirus, putting an abrupt end to the season less than a month before champions were to be crowned.

The decision comes a day after the NCAA announced the games that were scheduled to start next week would go on, but played in mostly empty arenas.

That plan was scrapped as every major American sports league from the NBA to MLB put the brakes on its season due to concerns about the pandemic.

The NCAA canceled all of its spring championships in every sport, which include hockey, baseball and lacrosse.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Grand Canyon has fired basketball coach Dan Majerle after seven seasons.

The school announced the former Phoenix Suns star’s firing Thursday, hours after the Western Athletic Conference and NCAA Tournament were canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Marjele was hired in 2013 to help usher the Antelopes through its transition into Division I. Grand Canyon won at least 20 games its first two years in Division I, but went 13-17 this season.

Former New Mexico State and UNLV coach Marvin Menzies was named interim coach.

MLB

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak and suspended the rest of its spring training schedule.

Opening day had been scheduled for March 26. The decision announced by Commissioner Rob Manfred on Thursday left open whether each team would still play 162 games.

The announcement came while some spring training games in Florida were still in progress. MLB followed the NBA, NHL, MLS and college basketball tournaments in altering schedules because of the pandemic.

The minor league baseball season, which was to start April 9, also will be delayed along with qualifying in Arizona for this year’s Olympic baseball tournament and for next year’s World Baseball Classic.

NBA

MIAMI (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday night that the league’s hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic will likely last at least a month, or roughly what would have been the remainder of an uninterrupted regular season.

“What we determined today is that this hiatus will be, most likely, at least 30 days,” Silver said on TNT’s “Inside The NBA” while making his first public comments since the league suspended play.

Later, in an open letter to NBA fans, Silver said “we intend to resume the season, if and when it becomes safe for all concerned.”

Silver did not say if the league intends for the regular season to resume or if the NBA, should it return to action, would immediately go into postseason play. It’s also unclear if play will be able to resume with fans in the stands.

The 30-day minimum hiatus would mean no games until at least April 10.

Silver said the league and the players association will have to continue determining “what makes sense here without compromising anyone’s safety and I think it’s frankly too early to tell,” Silver said.

GOLF

The Players Championship went from having no fans to having no players.

In a surprise announcement Thursday night, the PGA Tour canceled the rest of The Players Championship and decided to shut down its other tournaments for the next three weeks.

Only 10 hours earlier, as the opening round was underway and fans continued to stream into the TPC Sawgrass, Commissioner Jay Monahan announced no fans would be allowed at tour events for the next month because of the fears over the new coronavirus outbreak.

It was a bold decision in light of other leagues either suspending play or canceling entire tournaments.

And then the tour changed course.

NHL

The NHL has placed its season on ice — for now.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday the league will “pause” its season, effective immediately, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The move came one day after the NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive for COVID-19.

Bettman said the hope is to resume play later and still award the Stanley Cup.

“Following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus — and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point — it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time,” Bettman said.

The NHL Players’ Association backed the decision, calling it “an appropriate course of action at this time” and adding: “The players are looking forward to the opportunity to resume play in front of hockey fans everywhere.”

The NHL is halting play with 189 games left in the season and uncertainty about how many more — if any — could be played before the playoffs, which typically begin in early April.

AUTO RACING

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — IndyCar and NASCAR will race this weekend without spectators, while Formula One’s Australian Grand Prix was called off entirely, as auto racing joined other sports in being affected by concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

IndyCar pushed forward with Sunday’s season-opening race after the mayor of St. Petersburg said Thursday fans would not be permitted to attend. Only essential personnel can enter the fenced area surrounding the temporary street course through downtown St. Petersburg.

Competitors will have to answer a questionnaire for health screening before entry. Practice sessions, the driver autograph session and other events Friday were canceled. IndyCar typically draws about 130,000 to a three-day street festival capped by Sunday’s race.

NASCAR said it will run its next two races without fans, starting this weekend in Atlanta and continuing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

MLS

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Major League Soccer is shutting down for 30 days because of the coronavirus, delaying the home opener for the expansion team co-owned by former England captain David Beckham.

“Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season — based on the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Agency of Canada and other public health authorities,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement Thursday.

Inter Miami, co-owned by Beckham and Jorge Mas, had been scheduled to play its home opener Saturday. MLS started its season on Feb. 29 and each of the 26 teams has played two league matches.

In addition, the U.S. Soccer Federation canceled exhibitions in March and April for its men’s and women’s national teams as a precaution.

TENNIS

The ATP suspended all men’s professional tennis tournaments for six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the WTA said Thursday it was calling off three events for now and would decide on any further changes to the women’s tour schedule within a week.

After the men’s tour announced it would halt ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour competition until late April.

WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said the tournament in Charleston, South Carolina, won’t be held as scheduled because of concerns about coronavirus. The clay-court Volvo Car Open was supposed to be April 6-12.

The WTA said tournaments were also being dropped in Guadalajara, Mexico, starting Monday, and and Bogota, Colombia, starting April 6.

SOCCER

Carlos Cordeiro resigned as U.S. Soccer Federation president on Thursday night, three days after the organization filed legal papers in a gender discrimination claiming women players had less physical ability and responsibility than men.

His decision elevated former American midfielder Cindy Parlow Cone to become the first woman president in the history of the federation.

Cordeiro announced his resignation on Twitter without even telling the federation’s communications staff. He stepped down on a day several USSF board members issued extraordinary rebukes that criticized the governing body’s legal filings. Among them were Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and Cone, the federation’s vice president.

LONDON (AP) — Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, forcing the club to put the entire first team in self-isolation and for its Premier League match against Brighton at the weekend to be postponed.

The Premier League reacted by saying it will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss “future fixtures” – just hours after saying it would be pushing ahead with a full schedule of games and stadiums with fans, unlike most other major European leagues.

Arsenal said the first-team squad, coaching staff and academy members were in quarantine “in line with government health guidelines” after coming in close contact with Arteta, who received a positive test for COVID-19 on Thursday evening.

OLYMPICS

TOKYO (AP) — President Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the spreading coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.

“The IOC and the organizing committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement — absolutely not at all,” Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference on Friday in Tokyo.

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as schedule on July 24.

COURTS

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Former Olympic high jumper Erin Aldrich claims one of her track coaches, John Rembao, began grooming her for a sexually abusive relationship when she was 16 before physically taking advantage of her two years later.

Aldrich was one of three women who filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, on Wednesday against the NCAA, its board of governors and Rembao.

The U.S. Olympic Committee established a code of ethics for coaches nearly three decades ago. While the NCAA acknowledged coaches should never have sexual relationships with athletes under any circumstances, the governing body has not required its member institutions to prohibit them from having such relationships, according to the lawsuit.

She said Rembao took advantage of his key role for USA Track and Field as well as being her coach at the University of Arizona and the University Texas from 1996 to 2000.

OBITUARY

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Del Shofner, the wide receiver who combined with Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle to give the New York Giants one of the NFL’s most prolific passing threats in the early 1960s, has died. He was 85.

Shofner’s daughter, Laurie Shofner Corwin, confirmed the death Thursday in a telephone call to The Associated Press. A family statement said the five-time Pro Bowl receiver died in Los Angeles on Wednesday of natural causes with his family by his side.

Shofner was the Los Angeles Rams’ first round draft pick, 11th overall, in the 1957 draft. After spending his rookie season on defense, he was switched to wide receiver the following season and led the league with 1,097 yards receiving.

Shofner was traded to the Giants following the 1960 season. The following season, the lanky 6-foot-3 former Baylor star had 1,125 yards and became the first player in NFL history to have two seasons of 1,000 yards receiving. He would have 1,000 yards receiving in three consecutive seasons (61-63).

Shofner played 11 seasons in the NFL and retired following the 1967 season.

He was voted onto the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1960s by voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He finished with 349 catches for 6,470 yards and 51 touchdowns, averaging 18.5 yards a catch.