“We had several team members test positive in January, and were forced to place the program on hold, cancel several games and finally cancel our season. It was and remains the right thing for us to do,” head coach Kenneth Blakeney said in a statement. “Ultimately, our number one priority is to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes, both mentally and physically. Canceling the season is in the best interest of the team at this time.”
— Howard Athletics (@HUBisonSports) February 9, 2021
Howard joins dozens of other college basketball programs that have either canceled the remainder of their seasons or completely opted out of playing this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Like Howard, a number of those programs are at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
HBCU Gameday published a report earlier Tuesday citing an unidentified source who said Howard’s remaining basketball season would be canceled.
During a season that has also seen traditional powerhouse major programs play a pared-down schedule because of the pandemic, Howard — considered a mid-major — played just five games. That’s a very low number compared to most other programs already playing in a limited number of contests. The team finished with a record of just one win and four losses.
Howard is the third team in the all-HBCU Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to cancel its season. Several teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which is also all-HBCU, have canceled their seasons, as well.
Statistics show the pandemic has disproportionately affected Black communities, and colleges are apparently no exception.
Despite landing a coveted blue chip prospect who stands at nearly 7 feet tall and another transfer from a major basketball program, Howard underwhelmed from the start of the season.
Makur Maker, a freshman who was ranked an impressive 16th coming out of high school and whose brother plays in the NBA, had his season shut down due to injury after playing just one game back at the start of the season in November.
After repeatedly postponing games, the program reached its decision Tuesday.
Blakeney said ending the season would allow his players to focus on their grades.
“Fortunately, this gives our student-athletes the opportunity to finish their academic year strong while demonstrating their resiliency upon their return. We are Bison Strong; we will get through this together,” he said.
The Washington Post published a timeline of Howard’s season showing why the team has been affected more than others. Aside from Maker’s injury, Nojel Eastern, who transferred to Howard from Purdue University, decided in December to leave the program and ultimately prepare for the NBA Draft, delivering the tam another unexpected setback.
A number of Howard’s players also tested positive for the coronavirus, including Maker. Howard paused its program shortly afterward in January, canceling and postponing games before finally arriving at Tuesday’s decision to shut the program down for the remainder of the season.