This calendar year was supposed to serve Stillwater with the opportunity to showcase the community and the Oklahoma State campus on the national level with two NCAA Division I championships scheduled to be hosted in the city limits.
But as college classes start up next week – with at least a little excitement for the potential of having football – the OSU athletic department was delivered another blow in its hopes to showcase the community.
After losing the tennis championships in the spring due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma State will now also lose the cross country national championships.
“We cannot now, at this point, have fall NCAA championships because there’s not enough schools participating,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a video released by the NCAA on Thursday. “The Board of Governors also said if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship. So we can’t (hold a championship), in any Division I championship sport now – which is everything other than FBS football – that goes on in the fall.”
Oklahoma State had been undergoing extensive work on its cross country course in preparation for the national event, to the extent the program canceled its annual Cowboy Jamboree – an event that included high school and junior college runners, along with Division I programs – the past two years (though the program did get to host the regional meet in 2019).
“I am disappointed that Stillwater is missing out on the opportunity to host competitors from around the country,” Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce said. “I understand the NCAA’s decision given the current pandemic, but I hope we have the chance to extend our famous hospitality to the athletes, coaches and fans sometime soon.”
Not only will Oklahoma State not host the cross country national tournament, but that also means its women’s soccer program – which, as of this week, will be allowed to play Big 12 Conference matches – will not get an opportunity to play for a national championship.
The decision could impact whether or not programs and/or athletes consider moving forward with having a season.
The Division I Council had recommended to the Division I Board of Directors on Wednesday of “providing fall sports student-athletes who compete and then opt out of future participation or have have a season cut short due to COVID-19: 1) an extension of their five-year period of eligibility; and 2) an additional season of competition if they participate in 50 percent or less of the maximum number of competitions allowed in each sport by Division I rules.”
That means, if the Board of Directors approves the recommendation, athletes in soccer and cross country – or even football if it ultimately gets canceled before the sixth game of the season – would not lose a year of eligibility for this fall, similar to what the NCAA decided to do with the spring sports athletes.
A message for comment from Oklahoma State women’s soccer coach Colin Carmichael was not returned by press time.
Oklahoma State has scheduled a media availability with cross country coach Dave Smith for Friday morning to discuss the cancelation of the championships.
News Press city editor Michelle Charles contributed to this story.