NCAA

Correction: Obit-Majerus story

Correction: Obit-Majerus story

ST. LOUIS (AP) In a story Dec. 2 about the death of college basketball coach Rick Majerus, The Associated Press reported erroneously that he was born in Milwaukee. He was born in Sheboygan, Wis.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Rick Majerus, college basketball coach, dies

Rick Majerus, jovial coach who led Utah to 1998 NCAA final against Kentucky, dies at 64

By R.B. FALLSTROM

AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) - At Rick Majerus' final stop, the lone concession to the coach's health woes were the footstools stationed at each corner of the practice court.

Close by anytime he needed a breather. Close enough, too, to jump up for some hands-on assistance with the proper stance or to lead a quick walkthrough.

The jovial, basketball-obsessed coach who led Utah to the 1998 NCAA final and had only one losing season in 25 years with four schools, died Saturday. He was 64.

Utah industrialist Jon Huntsman, the coach's longtime friend, confirmed in a statement released through The Salt Lake Tribune that Majerus died of heart failure in a Los Angeles hospital. The coach had been hospitalized there for several months.

Players remembered Majerus, who got his start as an assistant under Al McGuire at Marquette, as a coach who was exacting and perhaps a bit unorthodox at times, but always fair. Majerus was known for assembling rosters with an international flair, and his final team at Saint Louis had players from Australia and New Zealand.

``It was a unique experience, I'll tell you that, and I loved every minute of it,'' said Saint Louis guard Kyle Cassity, who was mostly a backup on last season's 26-win team after starting for Majerus earlier in his college career. ``A lot of people questioned the way he did things, but I loved it. He'd be hard as hell on you, but he really cared.''

At the postgame news conference following Saint Louis' four-point loss to top seed Michigan State in the NCAA West Regional, Majerus and his players wept.

``Coach has done so much,'' Brian Conklin said back then. ``Being his first recruiting class, he told me that we were going to help him build something special here. He's a great coach. I couldn't imagine playing for a better coach, a better person. He doesn't just teach you about basketball, it's about life.''

Saint Louis athletic director Chris May said in a statement that what he would remember most about Majerus ``was his enduring passion to see his players excel both on and off the court.''

``He truly embraced the term `student-athlete,' and I think that will be his lasting legacy,'' May added.

The school announced Nov. 19 that Majerus wouldn't return to Saint Louis because of the heart condition. He ended the school's 12-year NCAA tournament drought last season, and bounced back from his only losing season, with a team that won its opening game and took top regional seed Michigan State to the wire. The Billikens were ranked for the first time since 1994-95.

Majerus was undergoing evaluation and treatment in California for the ongoing heart trouble and the school announced he was on leave in late August.

``That's a tough one for me,'' Boston coach Doc Rivers, a former Marquette star, said after the Celtics' loss in Milwaukee. ``He's the one that gave me my nickname. I knew before (the game) that he wasn't going to make it through the night. I don't want to talk much about it.''

San Diego State coach Steve Fisher first met Majerus at a camp when Majerus was a graduate assistant at Marquette and Fisher was coaching at the high school level in Chicago.

``Rick would hold court at night with a case of beer in the basement,'' Fisher said. ``Phenomenal coach, a better person, cared about family, cared about people. He will be missed by everyone.''

Loyola of Chicago coach Porter Moser, an assistant under Majerus at Saint Louis from 2007-10, tweeted, ``RIP to my friend and mentor Coach Majerus. I learned so much about the game and life. We lost One of the best! My heart is heavy tonight.''

Missouri coach Frank Haith said it was a ``sad day for all of college basketball.''

``Coach Majerus was a tremendous coach and one of the all-time great personalities in our profession,'' Haith said. ``Our hearts and prayers go out to Rick's family and friends and all the wonderful student-athletes and staff at Saint Louis University.''

Majerus had a history of heart and weight problems dating to 1989 that persisted despite a daily constitutional of a mile swim. He had a stent inserted in August 2011 in Salt Lake City and missed some games in the 2011-12 season after gashing his leg in a collision with players.

He backed out of a commitment to coach Southern California due to heart problems.

Majerus was 95-69 in five seasons at Saint Louis and had a 25-year record of 517-216, with 15 20-win seasons and two 30-win seasons. He had his most success at Utah, going 323-95 from 1989-2004. He was at Marquette from 1983-86, and Ball State from 1987-89.

Ball State was 29-3 in 1988-89 under Majerus, including the school's first NCAA tournament victory. At Utah, Majerus produced 10 conference championships in 13 seasons.

``Rick left a lasting legacy at the University of Utah, not only for his incredible success and the national prominence he brought to our basketball program, but also for the tremendous impact he made on the young men who were fortunate enough to play on his teams,'' Utah athletic director Dr. Chris Hill said in a statement.

``His standard of excellence extended beyond the basketball court and into the academic and personal success of his players. He will be deeply missed and we grieve for his family and all of his friends.''

Majerus took 12 teams to the NCAA tournament, winning at least one game in all but one of those appearances, with the 1998 Utah team losing to Kentucky in the NCAA championship game. He led four teams to the NIT and took Saint Louis teams to the CBI tournament final in 2009-10.

``It's a sad day for college basketball,'' UNLV coach Dave Rice said. ``Certainly one of the great college basketball coaches. He took talent where they were most effective. When you went up against Coach Majerus and you won you knew you did something special.''

Gonzaga assistant coach Donny Daniels spent a decade as an assistant under Majerus.

``He was a caring man, a gracious man, giving of himself,'' Daniels said. ``He did so many nice things for me. He taught me how to coach and how to be efficient.''

Arizona coach Sean Miller coached against Majerus when he was at Xavier and Majerus was at Saint Louis.

``We've certainly lost a member of the coaching fraternity that all of us respect,'' Miller said. ``It became very apparent when you prepared for his team and watched him coach against your team that there are very few coaches that are more prepared, more detail-oriented that knew the game comprehensively than Rick Majerus. You could also sense that basketball, the game, the love of the game was really part of his life.''

Majerus as a mentor to Ben Howland during the UCLA coach's days at UC Santa Barbara and Northern Arizona.

``He was a great coach and a really, really good person'' Howland said. ``It's a sad day for basketball because he was a brilliant man.''

Majerus was openly critical of Saint Louis' affiliation in the Atlantic 10, complaining that the travel demands made it too hard to succeed academically. Yet he coached two academic All-Americans at Saint Louis, Conklin and Kevin Lisch.

Majerus was born in Sheboygan, Wis., 60 miles north of Milwaukee, and earned a spot on the freshman team at Marquette. He didn't make the varsity under McGuire, who instead hired him as an assistant coach in 1971.

Majerus' ties to Wisconsin included a one-year stint as assistant coach with the NBA's Bucks in 1987-88.

``He's done so much for basketball at Marquette and all through the state of Wisconsin,'' Bucks assistant coach Jim Boylan said. ``For me personally, he's always been there. He's one of those guys who, if you don't see Rick for a while and when something was going wrong and you needed help, boom, he'd be there. He'd basically give you the shirt off his back, if that's what you needed.''

Three of Majerus' players at Utah were first-round NBA draft picks. Keith Van Horn was No. 2 overall in 1997, Michael Doleac 12th in 1998 and Andre Miller eighth in 1999.

Saint Louis is 3-3 this season under interim coach Jim Crews, who joined the staff last season. The Billikens were picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 but have struggled without point guard Kwamain Mitchell, sidelined probably until January with a broken foot.

``Nobody loved basketball and teaching kids more that Rick,'' Crews said. ``His passion for the game and the coaching profession was unparalleled.''

Majerus' father, Raymond, died of a heart attack at 63 in 1987. He was a former secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers. Majerus was devoted to his mother, Alyce, before her death in August 2011.

He was briefly married from 1987-89. He is survived by sisters Jodi and Tracy.

The portly coach was unabashed in his love of food, always quick with a restaurant recommendation for whatever town his teams were playing in.

His autobiography, ``My Life On a Napkin,'' came out in 2000.

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AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Follow R.B. Fallstrom on Twitter at (at)rbfallstromAP

NCAA president Mark Emmert says fall champions can't happen at this time

NCAA president Mark Emmert says fall champions can't happen at this time

While conferences and schools across the nation are withdrawing from the 2020 fall sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic, others remain adamant that games and seasons can be played.

However, for those who are planning on having a fall campaign, their hopes of competing for a championship could still be derailed. According to NCAA president Mark Emmert, all Division I sports besides football --- which operates on the bowl schedule -- are in jeopardy of losing a title season due to the lack of teams involved.

“We cannot, now at this point, have fall NCAA Championships because there’s not enough schools participating," Emmert said during the NCAA Social Series on Thursday. "The Board of Governors also said, ‘look if you don’t have half the schools playing the sport you can’t have a legitimate championship.’”

Emmert noted that the fall can still be beneficial to universities as programs can put all their focus into safety protocols and maintaining the health of players. Additionally, players can still remain on campus and prepare for the spring season.

As for actual competition in the coming months, Emmert has begun to look ahead to 2021 with the hope that teams have the opportunity to compete when the spring comes around. Specifically, he wants to make sure that winter and spring sports -- who already lost a season in 2020 -- are not forced to suffer through the same fate again.

In order to do that, he's considering numerous altercations to sports such as modified bubbles and smaller brackets for postseason play. The procedures will become clearer in the coming months as more questions about the virus and its impact are answered.

For now, Emmert is optimistic that the NCAA has the capability to bring sports back in a safe way. But to do so, a lot of work still needs to be done.

“There’s a way to do it. Will it be normal? Of course not, you’ll be playing fall sports in the spring. Will it create other challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah, it is doable and we want to do that," Emmert said. "We want to, again, make it work for these students.”

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Will there be high school sports in the DMV this fall amid coronavirus concerns?

Will there be high school sports in the DMV this fall amid coronavirus concerns?

No area of society has gone untouched by the novel coronavirus pandemic, including sports. After every level of athletics was rocked by the virus and forced to shut down in the spring, professional leagues have figured out ways to return to their fields of play in as safe a manner as possible. Meanwhile, decisions are still being made on the collegiate, high school and youth levels about when and how sports will return.

In our Playing Through COVID series, NBC Sports Washington will tell the story of those decisions and how they impact the people involved, including athletes, coaches, parents and more. The series launched with an interview of Dr. Sunil Budhrani, ER Physician, CEO and Chief Medical Officer at Innovation Health. Watch the full interview here.

As the 2020-21 school year approaches in the DMV, answers of whether sports will accompany it in the fall have slowly trickled in.

And thus far, the answer is overwhelmingly no. 

Washington, D.C. and Virginia have both announced plans to adopt a Condensed Interscholastic Plan, which would push the start of winter sports back to a tentative Dec. 14 start date and have what are traditionally fall sports follow in February. Maryland announced plans to postpone fall and winter sports during the first semester, which ends Jan. 27.

Current calendar plans announced for the resumption of sports are listed below:

DC

Winter season (basketball, indoor track and field, cheerleading)

First practice date: December 14 -- Game dates: January 4 to February 28 

Fall season (cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball)

First practice date: February 1 -- Game dates: February 22 to April 16 

Spring season (baseball, softball, tennis, track and field, ultimate disc, chess)

First practice date: March 29 -- Game dates: April 19 to June 13

Virginia

Winter season (basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim/dive, wrestling)

First practice date: December 14 -- Game dates: December 28 to February 20

Fall season (cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, volleyball)

First practice date: February 15 -- Game dates: March 1 to May 1

Spring season (baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field)

First practice date: April 12 -- Game dates: April 26 to June 26

Maryland

TBD

Present in each region's announcement of a postponement was mention of a collaboration with local health officials in determining those plans. District of Columbia State Athletic Association executive director Clark Ray reiterated that point on a town hall hosted by NBC Sports Washington’s Chad Ricardo on July 17.

“Based on the information that we had, based on our conversations with our department of health, and based on input from the public schools, the public charter schools, the private schools and all of those who represent the multiple conferences of our private schools, this was an easy decision to make but an agonizing decision to send out,” Ray said. “It’s the right decision at this time based on the current science and data that we have.”

Virginia High School League executive director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun echoed how difficult the decision was during a virtual press conference on July 27, though Virginia’s plan left open the possibility for sports to return sooner than outlined if the state moves beyond Phase III in its recovery plan. Or if guidelines for Phase III are revised to allow high-risk activities.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision,” Haun said. “All of you know how important high school activities are to our student athletes, to our coaches, to our parents, just our school communities. This was not a decision that was made lightly. Everybody took this very seriously. I think it’s safe to say in our office and probably with the executive committee, there have been very few of us that have had a full nights’ sleep in a long time just thinking about all the implications here that are involved.”

RELATED: A DOCTOR'S EXPLANATION OF WHY EFFECTS OF MYOCARDITIS ARE DANGEROUS FOR ATHLETES

Those same implications are part of the reason why decisions on fall sports were delayed until recently across the state of Maryland.

Rather than enforce a statewide decision on athletics, Maryland initially left the decision on how to proceed this fall to each individual school system, of which there are 24. The state set a minimum set of guidelines, but each local system had the authority to be more restrictive based on local circumstances in regards to the virus. It’s a path that left many in limbo but that Maryland governor Larry Hogan said was consistent with how the state made other decisions.

“The state sets some parameters, but people were not wanting us to interfere with those local decisions,” Hogan said at his press conference on Maryland’s COVID-19 recovery July 22. “County governments have always had their individual authorities to make decisions that are more restrictive than what we’ve done, not less restrictive. They can’t ignore state law. But our plans always incorporated the flexibility of local governments.”

That autonomy resulted in varying decisions across Maryland’s local school systems. While most never announced a decision before Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Assoication finally made an overarching decision last Monday, others had postponed fall sports, and Montgomery County canceled fall and winter sports altogether. The variation in decisons wasn't much different than the current NCAA football scene where some conferences have already postponed sports, while others are holding out hope for a season.

Montgomery County superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith said the decision to cancel was devastating.

“It’s not just sports programs. It’s all of our extracurricular and cocurricular programs that are so important to our students,” Smith said on a virtual recovery plan media briefing July 22. “And we understand that this is devastating, and we’re gonna continue to look at how we can support students through the digital world or whatever other strategies that people may be able to come up with. I’ve seen some examples of this that are really tremendous, and we’re going to continue to push hard to make sure that we can do whatever we can do in this very important part of a student’s educational experience.”

Montgomery's decision at the time likely spoke to a larger concern in coronavirus trends cited by Hogan. While Montgomery’s positivity rate was down 90% from a high of 32.64% on April 20 to 3.27%, Hogan said there was concern that the positivity rate for Marylanders under 35 years (6.57%) old was higher than it was for those 35 or older (3.50%). And while it has dropped significantly since peaking, it has recently seen a slight uptick. Additionally, there had been a slight uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state and, according to Hogan, some of those were younger patients.

These were the types of numbers being considered across D.C., Maryland and Virginia when deciding whether schools should move to a virtual-only format this fall. Most have decided they will, but some will open at full capacity, while others are going with a hybrid approach. Those decisions had a direct influence on what local jurisdictions decided in regards to how to proceed with sports. MPSSAA cited as much in its announcement to postpone sports.

"This decision comes in light of the recent announcements of local school systems to begin education virtually and provides each school system with options for the gradual increase of student engagement for the physical and social-emotional health of students," the statement read.

MPSSAA said it's finalizing plans for modified competition seasons for all sports in the second semester and will make those plans available at some point prior to the start of the school year, which is Aug. 31.

Private schools in the region aren’t beholden to the same rules enforced by the public governing bodies, but many of them are going in the same direction.

The Interstate Athletic Conference, Independent School League and Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference all announced the postponement of sports until January. The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference said it is canceling fall athletics but exploring scheduling options for a January start.

Stay connected with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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