“The student-athletes on the Duke women's basketball team have made the difficult decision to conclude their current season due to safety concerns,” said Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations and chief communications officer, in a statement, per ESPN. “We support their decision, as we have supported the choices made by all student-athletes at Duke during this unprecedented time.”
He continued, “Duke will maintain our current schedule of competition in other sports and will continue to observe our rigorous health and safety protocols, which include daily testing for all student-athletes and are based on guidance from leading medical experts.”
The Blue Devils stopped its season on Dec. 16 due to two confirmed cases and contact-tracing in the team’s travel party. The program suspended games against Miami, NC State, and UNC Wilmington, and its next schedule bout was against Louisville on Thursday.
Duke’s women’s organization is the first Power 5 team to withdraw after kicking off the season. The Ivy League school chose to not play winter sports in November before the basketball season began, and a few other schools decided not to play as well.
The Blue Devils’ new coach, Kara Lawson, who came on in July, said this month, “I don't think we should be playing right now. That's my opinion on it.” The day before, Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski wondered why college basketball was continuing amid the pandemic.
“I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we're at,” he said on Dec. 8.
He also pointed to the surge in COVID cases: “People are saying the next six weeks are going to be the worst,” Krzyzewski said. “To me, it's already pretty bad. On the other side of it, there are these vaccines that are coming out. By the end of the month, 20 million vaccine shots will be given. By the end of January or in February, another 100 million. Should we not reassess that? See just what would be best?”
The virus has forced a number of games to be canceled or suspended during the season’s first month with many players testing positive. The NCAA said in December that it intended to host its tournament in a single geographical area, with San Antonio as the top pick.