Bethune-Cookman will not be participating in intercollegiate sports this coming winter or spring, announcing Tuesday that it has canceled all athletic events for the remainder of the academic year because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The NCAA said Bethune-Cookman was the first Division I institution to publicly announce that it was not going to compete in any sport for the entire academic year. University President E. LaBrent Chrite said the decision was made “in the face of a surging COVID-19 spike” both in the state of Florida and across the country.

“We have concluded that the risks are too great for our student-athletes and staff to travel and compete at this time,” Chrite said.

Bethune-Cookman, located in Daytona Beach, Florida, has 15 varsity programs, and the fall 2020 seasons were canceled back in July. Chrite said the latest decision was made “after a series of meetings with stakeholders across the campus” along with athletic director Lynn Thompson, coaches, health experts and state officials.

“We obviously recognize that other institutions may elect to move forward with spring competition,” Chrite said. “The decision for us, however, was not a complicated one. The risk premium is simply too high and our priority remains the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. As members of the B-CU family constantly engage in various forms of civic engagement, this decision also protects our community partners as well.”

The university is also shutting down all in-person classes on Wednesday and encouraging students who are living on campus to leave now instead of the planned end-of-semester closure on Nov. 20.

Thompson — whose brother-in-law is one of the 226,000 people in this country to have died so far because of the coronavirus — said the decision was made in part because of a spike in cases on campus over the last several days.

“Now is not the time for us to roll the balls out and play,” Thompson said. “It’s the time to close ranks and protect our community so that we can remain safe until it’s time to play again.”

The NCAA has said that scholarship athletes will get an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic.

Bethune-Cookman was to have been participating in its 40th and final season as a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The school will join the Southwestern Athletic Conference in July 2021.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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