The SAC Holiday Tournament has become the latest high school athletic event to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, Fort Wayne Community Schools issued a news release announcing that the Summit Athletic Conference was canceling the annual boys and girls basketball tournament, which had been held at Wayne in recent years.
This year's tournament was scheduled for Dec. 21-23.
According to an email announcing the decision, the tournament was called off because of the likelihood of exposing teams and fans to COVID-19, and because of the loss of sponsors.
According to the email, the conference plans to bring back the tournament in 2021.
The 2019 tournament's most prominent sponsor was Parkview Sports Medicine, but Parkview Health is currently not sponsoring events, such as the Holiday Tournament, that encourage large in-person gatherings.
“As we focus on caring for our community through the pandemic, Parkview Health has paused sponsorships since March,” read a statement provided to The Journal Gazette by Parkview Health public relations manager Tami Brigle. “As longtime partners of the SAC, Parkview Sports Medicine supports the conference's decision to prioritize the health and well-being of students and fans.”
Carroll is the defending boys champion. The Homestead girls won in 2018 and 2019.
The boys tournament has been held each year since 1975, and the girls tournament every year since 1977.
Homestead girls coach Rod Parker and Snider boys coach Jeremy Rauch said they did not have much, if any, warning that the holiday classic was in jeopardy. Rauch said he broke the news of the cancellation to his players at a workout Wednesday afternoon.
“It means a lot to the kids. They grow up playing against these guys, just around the city for years. To do it in a condensed atmosphere, where everybody's at the games” means a lot, Rauch said. “So there was definitely disappointment. That's understandable.
“From a coaching standpoint, it is what it is. We enjoy the Holiday Tournament, but at the same time, in a lot of cases, we could potentially play the same team three times, or play them a week later and that kind of thing. But it matters to our players, and our players matter to us.”
SAC coaches now have open dates on their schedules and could enter a new tournament or pick up a few nonconference games. The problem, Rauch explained, is that many tournaments are already full.
“Oftentimes those tournaments are filled the season before,” Parker said while discussing his team's schedule. “At this point, my program is probably going to have to explore some out-of-state options, see what things look like with some connections I have in Ohio, see what kind of options or connections I can use to pick up a game or two over there.
“Otherwise, ideally, we'll have to expand our horizons, see if we can't get something down in Indianapolis, competition that feels compatible for where we're at this year.”