5:19 PM ET
- Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.
Cal State Northridge will not compete in women’s basketball during the 2020-21 season after six players elected not to participate due to coronavirus-related concerns and a seventh was unable to enter the country due to travel restrictions, the school announced Thursday.
That left the Big West program with only six available players.
“As a team, we came to the difficult decision that we will not compete this year,” Northridge players said in a statement released by the school. “Since there are only six of us and the physical health concerns from the wear and tear of a full season with back-to-back competition, we are prioritizing our health and safety during this global pandemic. We love the game, and we are competitors. We will use this time to focus and prepare mentally and physically to compete at a high level and full capacity for the 2021-22 season.”
The school said the team began practice with 12 players, while an unnamed 13th player was unable to enter the country. Six players elected to opt out of the season after practice began.
“I concur wholeheartedly with this decision,” team physician Dr. Eric Sletten said. “It would not be a safe endeavor to compete at the NCAA Division I level with such reduced person power. Foregoing the 2020-21 season is best for the health and safety of these student-athletes. Of course, our staff will remain available to attend to their physical and emotional needs.”
The school said all scholarships would be honored during the current academic year. Most classes are being conducted through virtual learning.
An NCAA ruling last month granted all winter sports athletes an additional year of eligibility and an additional year in which to complete it. Northridge has only one senior listed on its roster and did not specify if she would be allowed to compete in 2021-22.
Northridge had not announced a nonconference schedule but was slated to begin Big West play at home against Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28.
Longtime coach Jason Flowers resigned in April after Northridge went 12-19 last season. He was not replaced on a permanent basis, with former associate head coach Lindsey Foster taking over as the interim head coach for the 2020-21 season.
“We engaged and listened to the concerns of our team and feel this is the best decision for their health, safety, and well-being,” Foster said. “As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, our staff will continue to find creative and safe ways to develop our players. We are united in this approach and we will use this time to get ready for the 2021-22 season.”
Northridge joins Bethune Cookman as Division I programs not competing in women’s basketball this season.