Tribune-Star file/Joseph C. Garza

Members of the Oregon women's cross country team celebrate their first-place team finish with the National Champions trophy in this 2016 file photo at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute.  The decision announced Wednesday by NCAA Division III means Terre Haute this year will not host Division III Pre-National Invitational in October and the Division III National Championship in November. The Division I championships, also scheduled for Terre Haute, remains in doubt.

A decision Wednesday from the NCAA Division III Presidents Council to cancel fall sports championships for 2020-2021 is a major blow to Terre Haute's economy, said David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"This is a huge financial loss for our community," Patterson said, as the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course was slated to host the Division III NCAA Pre-National Invitational in October and the Division III National Championship in November.

"The two races alone mean several million dollars to our community," as hotels in a three-county area would sell out, as well as impact to restaurants, gasoline stations and even retail.

"We lost two community wide sellouts" for Division III events, Patterson said.

"We are saddened that this has happened, but we certainly understand," Patterson said. "How many people have died in this country and around the world from COVID-19? We've got to get a handle on this before sports and entertainment can take back off. These are student athletes, and safety is a priority and we respect their decision."

The NCAA's Board of Governors has directed each division to reach a decision on its fall sports championships by Aug. 21.

It also requires all members institutions to apply the resocialization principles to fall sports and set a 50% sponsorship threshold for a fall sport championship to be conducted.

“Looking at the health and safety challenges we face this fall during this unprecedented time, we had to make this tough decision to cancel championships for fall sports this academic year in the best interest of our student-athlete and member institutions,” said Tori Murden McClure, chair of the Presidents Council.

"Our Championships Committee reviewed the financial and logistical ramifications if Division III fall sports championships were conducted in the spring and found it was logistically untenable and financially prohibitive," McClure said. "Our Management Council reached the same conclusion. Moving forward, we will try to maximize the championships experience for our winter and spring sport student-athletes, who unfortunately were short-changed last academic year.”

The NIKE Cross Regional Midwest Championships, which had 3,280 runners last year, slated for November in Terre Haute has been canceled, Patterson said.

Additionally, the John McNichols Invitational slated for September, which was to include Division I and Division III runners, is uncertain.

Now the NCAA Division I Great Lakes Regional Championship remains in doubt.

Additionally, Patterson said the championship cross country course is slated to host the Indiana High School Athletic Association Sectional Championship and IHSAA State Championship for high school athletes in October. Those events also remain uncertain, Patterson said.

"I think we are just now going to see the economic fallout from this pandemic since March. I think people have been hanging on to see if things will change and it hasn't changed," Patterson said. "In fact more things are being canceled, so the economic fallout will hurt communities...and will certainly put a dent in our cross country efforts."

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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