Hilltopper football cancels spring game, practices; WKU AD Todd Stewart releases COVID-19 updates

Football gear sits on the sidelines of Feix Field during the Red vs. White game on April 21.

Drake Kizer

The WKU football team has officially canceled its spring football practices and the annual Red vs. White spring game due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the program announced on Thursday evening.

“For the safety and well-being of our players, staff and fans, spring football and the 2020 Red vs. White spring game have officially been canceled,” the WKU football program stated in a tweet Thursday.

The WKU football team was set to start official spring football practices on March 17, and the Hilltoppers would’ve completed 13 more scheduled sessions over the rest of the month leading up to the Red vs. White spring game, which was scheduled for April 18 at 2 p.m. in Houchens-Smith Stadium.

The WKU football program’s annual Pro Day, which allows former players to participate in NFL Combine events for pro scouts, is also cancelled, WKU Athletics spokesman Zach Greenwell told the Herald.

The NCAA has also banned in-person recruiting, which includes official and unofficial visits to campus for recruits, until at least April 15. The “recruiting dead period” will affect all Division I coaches attempting to welcome “prospective student-athletes” to campus, but it will have a large impact on college football coaches in particular, many of whom traditionally utilize spring practice periods for recruiting visits.

Conference USA canceled all spring sport competition and championships by a vote of its board of directors on Monday. That announcement followed others necessitated by COVID-19, including the C-USA Tournament ceasing a few days early and the NCAA to canceling its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in addition to calling off all of its remaining spring and winter championship events.

The NCAA announced March 13 that its Division I Council Coordination Committee agreed eligibility relief is appropriate for spring sports impacted by COVID-19, meaning student-athletes who have participated in spring sports this season will be granted another year of collegiate eligibility.

Baseball, softball, tennis, men’s and women’s track and field and men’s and women’s golf are the WKU programs with student-athletes that would qualify for the proposed eligibility waiver, but the NCAA is still looking into issues related to winter sport student-athletes whose postseason events were cancelled.

Any decisions related to eligibility of winter sport student-athletes could affect members of the WKU men’s and women’s basketball programs, as both the Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers were stripped of their ability to compete in conference or NCAA Tournament events last week.

WKU AD Todd Stewart provides further updates on Hilltopper athletics in open letter to campus community

WKU athletic director Todd Stewart also sent a letter to Hilltopper fans on Thursday, and he gave several updates on the athletic department’s plans to address the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Stewart confirmed all student-athletes — “except those with extenuating circumstances” — won’t be on campus for the remainder of the semester and will be transitioning to online learning. All formal and informal athletic practices and workouts are also prohibited until further notice, he wrote.

C-USA issued a similar statement regarding spring sport practices and other team activities on Thursday.

“Following further discussion with the Conference USA Athletics Directors with approval by the Board of Directors, C-USA announced today the cancelation of formal and organized practice, effective immediately,” the league office stated in a tweet Thursday.

“All other team activities will be governed by NCAA rules within each institution’s discretion.”

The university’s athletic department is also taking the necessary steps to ensure sure those leaving Bowling Green to head home “have all of the resources needed to transition into a different learning environment and succeed remotely in an online classroom setting,” Stewart wrote.

This is a developing story. More details will be published as they become available.

Sports Editor Drake Kizer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.