Player opt-outs deplete Cal State Northridge roster, program forced to cancel 2020-21 season

After six student-athletes decided to opt out of the 2020-21 season due to coronavirus, Cal State Northridge, a member of the Big West Conference, decided to cancel its 2020-21 season.  The Big West announced its conference schedule on Oct. 21 with play beginning Dec. 27. CSUN came in ninth in the league’s preseason coaches poll and tenth in the media poll.

Ivy League programs, Bethune-Cookman University and CSUN are out for the season.

CSUN’s entire statement on the situation:

CSUN Director of Athletics Mike Izzi announced today that the university will be unable to participate in women’s basketball during the 2020-21 season.

“Student-athlete safety will always be our priority,” Izzi said. “Given the number of students that have voluntarily elected to opt-out of competition this year, our women’s basketball team will not be able to have a healthy and safe opportunity to compete this season. There is no question that supporting the welfare of student-athletes is what drives us, making our direction clear.”

Earlier in the year, the NCAA directed all member institutions to provide student-athletes with an option to “opt-out” of athletics participation due to concerns about contracting COVID-19. In doing so, the NCAA would allow them to keep that year of eligibility.

The Matadors began preseason camp with 12 players on the roster. A 13th student-athlete could not enter the country due to travel constraints. As preseason workouts unfolded, six CSUN players elected to opt-out citing COVID-19 concerns, leaving the team with only six players available for action.

This decision was made in conjunction with the Women’s Basketball student-athletes, who offered their thoughts in a statement.

“As a team, we came to the difficult decision that we will not compete this year. 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.”

“I concur wholeheartedly with this decision,” said Head Team Physician Dr. Eric Sletten. “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.”

“We engaged and listened to the concerns of our team and feel this is the best decision for their health, safety, and well-being,” said interim head coach Lindsey Foster. “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.”

Members of the team will remain enrolled in classes, either virtually or in-person, as full-time students at CSUN. The team members will also retain access to support services per NCAA rules, ensuring that student-athletes remain on track academically.

On October 14th, the NCAA Division I Council adopted legislation to extend the eligibility of winter sport student-athletes. As such, our women’s basketball student-athletes will receive both an additional season of competition and an additional year which to complete it.

CSUN will honor all existing athletics scholarships through the 2020-21 school year and also ensure that women’s basketball student-athletes receive all the student support services necessary to cope with this unfortunate, but unavoidable, situation.

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