ST. GEORGE — A COVID-19 riddled campaign came to an abrupt end for the Dixie State University women’s basketball team as the school announced the suspension of the remainder of the season Tuesday night.
The Trailblazers finish their first season in Division I without having played a conference game after the school elected to end the season early rather than continue to put the student-athletes through the risks of competing, according to a statement released by Dixie State. The program already experienced a pause due to COVID-19 protocols earlier this season and is now shuttered for the remainder of the 2020-21 winter season. The men’s team will continue competing, though it had its Western Athletic Conference opener postponed due to a COVID-19 positive test in its opponent’s program, announced Monday. The university said the decision was made with the “overall health and wellness of the student-athletes and program in mind.”
“While we are disappointed with this for our women’s basketball program and its coaches and student-athletes, it is 100% the right call,” Dixie State Athletic Director Jason Boothe said in a statement. “We have kept the safety and well-being as the top priority for our student-athletes throughout the pandemic and given the issues this team is facing, this decision is right in line with that top priority. Once we get through the pandemic and all the issues it causes for everyone involved, we look forward to having the team back in action next school year.”
The Trailblazers played only three of their scheduled eight games to this point of the schedule. The first three games on the schedule were canceled after COVID-19 protocols first made either Dixie State or the opposing team unable to play. After successfully playing three in a row from Dec. 12 through Dec. 21, the team saw both of its contests after the new year canceled due to protocols once again. The game scheduled to have been played most recently on Monday was canceled due to protocols in the Simpson University program.
Dixie State went 1-2 in games it played, recording its first win as a Division I program in an 81-52 rout of Park University on Dec. 12.
The school was supposed to begin play in the Western Athletic Conference for the first time this weekend. With the women’s team’s shutdown and the cancelation of the men’s team’s series with New Mexico State due to COVID-19 protocols in the Aggies program, the introduction to the new conference will likely have to wait at least another week. Dixie was supposed to begin its new era with fall sports, but those seasons never started.
With the NCAA granting all winter sports athletes an extra year of eligibility, Dixie State will lose no players through those means this offseason. It does not guarantee that players won’t be leaving, but they’ll have an option that some seniors did not when the spring season ended prematurely in March. Head coach JD Gustin eluded to the idea that the roster was built with a two-year plan in mind.
“Getting this year (of eligibility) back, you’re kind of just playing with house money to a certain extent,” Gustin said in an interview before the season. “We’re getting that kid back next year, hopefully …. Any experience we get this year is nothing but help for next year.”
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