AP NEWS

Friday Sports in Brief

March 14, 2020 GMT

VIRUS OUTBREAK

The shock waves from the coronavirus outbreak rattled sports for another day as two rites of spring, the Masters and Boston Marathon, were postponed.

There was at least some relief Friday that those events are expected to take place later in the year, unlike the stunning announcement the day before that the NCAA was canceling March Madness, one of the biggest events on the U.S. sports calendar.

Golf and car racing came around and called off weekend events, leaving fans with nothing to look forward to for several weeks.

Major league baseball encouraged players to go home, a day after canceling the rest of the spring training schedule and postponing opening day by at least two weeks.

Ballparks in Florida and Arizona were locked down as the sport considered how to proceed.

RUNNING

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Marathon, the world’s most celebrated footrace, was postponed until Sept. 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the decision Friday. The Boston Athletic Association, which oversees the marathon, had held off deciding the fate of the April 20 race even as other high-profile sports events were canceled or postponed around the globe.

But pressure had mounted in recent weeks from officials in Boston and the seven cities and towns along the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) course. Some had expressed worries not only for the health of the 31,000 registered runners but also the estimated 1 million spectators who traditionally line the route, giving athletes hand slaps and even kisses as they pass.

GOLF

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Augusta National on Friday postponed the Masters, another massive hit to the spring sports calendar from the new coronavirus that already is responsible for the loss of March Madness and the delay of opening day baseball.

So much for that annual rite of spring and the first week in April devoted to the brilliance of dogwoods and azaleas, Amen Corner and Tiger Woods chasing another green jacket.

The Masters had been scheduled for April 9-12.

Masters chairman Fred Ridley said he hoped the decision puts Augusta National in the best position to host the Masters and its two other amateur events “at some later date.”

He did not indicate when the Masters could be played. The private club traditionally closes in May and does not open for its members until October.

AUTO RACING

NASCAR and IndyCar reversed course Friday and pulled the plug on racing this weekend, with IndyCar also suspending its season through the end of April due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

NASCAR called off Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and next weekend’s events at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Both events were already scheduled to be run without spectators.

IndyCar was scheduled to open its season Sunday on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg without fans. Formula One also canceled its season opening race in Australia, leaving the first full weekend of global motorsports without a major event.

Mark Miles, president and CEO of IndyCar parent company Penske Entertainment, said the about-face came as both IndyCar and NASCAR saw more and more events and attractions closing.

NCAA

NEW YORK (AP) — The NCAA is planning to extend the eligibility of athletes on spring sports teams by one year to make up for the season lost to the new coronavirus.

The details of how the extra eligibility will work are still being ironed out.

All three NCAA divisions would potentially allow another year for athletes in the 14 spring sports, which include baseball, softball, lacrosse and golf. The decision comes after the NCAA announced Thursday that its winter and spring championships would be canceled as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

Some, but not all, conferences have announced that their spring sports teams would not continue their regular seasons.

The NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee sent an email Friday notifying schools of its intention. The proposal is expected to pass.

NFL

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL is ending in-person visits between teams and draft prospects because of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

The league sent a memo to all 32 clubs on Friday afternoon saying the ban would go into effect until further notice at the end of the business day. The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, adds that teams will be permitted to conduct telephone and/or video conference interviews with prospects through the day before the draft.

The NFL draft is currently scheduled to begin on April 23 in Las Vegas.

The league has told teams they must report all telephone and video conference calls with prospects to the NFL player personnel department upon completion.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears re-signed veteran inside linebacker Danny Trevathan to a three-year contract extension through the 2022 season.

The team announced the move Friday. Trevathan has 327 tackles in four seasons with Bears and 602 overall in eight years with Chicago and Denver. He played on a Super Bowl champion with the Broncos.

The Bears value his leadership and production. But he has missed 18 of 64 games for Chicago, including seven last season because of a gruesome elbow injury.

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado (AP) — The Denver Broncos placed the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons on Friday and also picked up the 2020 contract options on star pass rusher Von Miller, linebacker Todd Davis and kicker Brandon McManus.

The tag on Simmons is worth $11.545 million, although chances are good the fifth-year safety will sign a long-term deal averaging more than $14 million a season before the July 15 deadline.

“We remain focused on reaching a long-term contract agreement with Justin, and he’s a big priority for us,” general manager John Elway said. “This is a placeholder in that process and our goal is the same -- to make sure that Justin is a Bronco for a long time.”

All four times Elway has used the franchise tag the sides reached a deal on a long-term extension: Matt Prater (2012), Ryan Clady (2013), Demaryius Thomas (2015) and Miller (2016).

SOCCER

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — The Premier League and the Champions League were both suspended Friday as the chaos stemming from the coronavirus outbreak continues to impact soccer.

The French and German leagues also dropped plans to play this weekend. After Spain and Italy previously made similar moves, all five of Europe’s biggest national competitions are now on hold.

Matches in England will be stopped until at least April 3 after five Premier League clubs said some players or staff were in self-isolation. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive for the virus, as has Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi.

UEFA said it was stopping next week’s games in all competitions, including the two remaining Champions League matches which had not been already called off — Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea and Barcelona vs. Napoli, both scheduled for Wednesday.

Games involving Juventus and Real Madrid had already been postponed because those clubs quarantined their players.

MMA

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The UFC is determined to fight on amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While leagues and organizers across sports canceled or delayed competition this week, the UFC proceeded with its plans to hold a fan-free event Saturday night in Brasilia, Brazil. Next weekend, the promotion still plans to stage a full fight card with fans inside London’s O2 Arena.

The UFC hasn’t canceled any competitions, even those previously scheduled for areas where large gatherings are now banned. Instead, the promotion has moved events scheduled for March 28 in Columbus, Ohio, and April 11 in Portland, Oregon, to the new UFC Apex complex in Las Vegas, where it has a small arena and television production capabilities.

UFC President Dana White attributes his decision to go against the sports world’s collective mindset partly to a conversation Thursday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. White and Trump are longtime friends and business associates.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois-Chicago fired coach Steve McClain on Friday after five seasons.

McClain went 76-93 with the Flames, including a 42-48 record in the Horizon League.

UIC was 18-17 this season and reached the Horizon League Tournament final, but lost 71-62 to Northern Kentucky.

UIC’s last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2004.

The Flames won at least 16 games in each of McClain’s last four seasons.

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