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Opt-Outs Lead CSU Northridge to Cancel WBB Season

Paul Steinbach

Game and season cancellations have become devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, but rarely are players the ones calling those shots.

The Cal State Northridge women’s basketball team announced it will not compete this 2020-21 season due to student-athlete COVID-19 opt-outs, according to a press release from the school’s athletic department Thursday.

The NCAA directed all member schools to provide student-athletes with an option to “opt-out” of competition this year due to concerns of the virus. In doing so, the NCAA would allow the athlete to keep that year of eligibility.

The Matadors began preseason camp with 12 players on the roster. A 13th student-athlete, from New Zealand, could not enter the country due to travel constraints. As workouts continued, six CSUN players elected to opt out, leaving the program with just a half-dozen players available to compete.

“Student-athlete safety will always be our priority,” CSUN athletic director Mike 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.”

The 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 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 wellbeing," 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. Team members will also retain access to support services per NCAA rules, ensuring that student-athletes remain on track academically.

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, the press release stated.

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