In the sad echo of March, the Ivy League, as the top division of the League I, cancelled the men’s and women’s basketball season on Thursday and announced that it would no longer practice winter sports in 2020-21 and would postpone its decision on spring sports until at least the beginning of March 2021.
Will Ivy’s decision encourage other competitions and schools to consider abolishing winter sports? What are the specific implications for varsity basketball, particularly the multi-billion dollar revenue stream that an NCAA tournament represents? What problems do schools and conferences face when they again try to play their part in the coronavirus pandemic? A team of ESPN reporters from the college focused on these fronts:
What impact do you think the decision of the Ivy League to cancel the 2020-21 university basketball season will have on other Division I conferences?
I don’t think they will be the first dominoes, as was the case at the conference tournaments in March. The Ivy League was one step ahead of most conferences this season, as they had already cancelled the games outside the conference. In addition, Ivy generally does not offer special exemptions for student athletes, making it unlikely that student athletes will return to campus when the entire population is studying remotely. Four of the eight schools in the competition worked remotely in the fall, so these students will probably not return until the spring semester – and then spring is not far away.
Can the other division follow? It’s possible. The most likely candidate will be the Patriotic League, which has already canceled the out-of-conference matches and generally elbows the Ivy League in the main decisions. But I don’t see the wholesale basketball players coming any closer, Power 5 or not, as was the case in March. — Jeff Borzello
I’m not sure if there will be a mass exodus right now, but the basketball programs of the men and women at the university are struggling with critical questions about the coming season. Can they afford to follow protocols with testing and contact tracking? WCC officials at St Mary’s said they plan to spend $400,000 on testing athletes this year. For most leagues that are not Power 5-leagues, the main source of tournament revenue for the NCAA depends on the ability to play. Without fans or with a limited number of spectators, these numbers are at risk. If schools cannot agree to buy matches, and especially if Power 5 schools move to a limited schedule without a conference, how much will basketball cost in universities this season?
The Ivy League is respected throughout university basketball, and their universities have a financial pipeline to endure the abnormal season. If they decide that the risks are not worth it, other leagues that do not play in the fifth division can follow them. University basketball clubs now have resources that the rest of the landscape lacks. I think now that the Ivy League has made its announcement, every league in the disadvantaged group thinks twice before moving on. — Myron Medcalf
The decision of the Ivy League also has a direct impact on the ECAC conference on men’s and women’s hockey. The six Ivy League schools – Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale – each have a field hockey programme for men and women playing ECAC. The other six teams – Clarkson, Colgate, Quinnpiak, Rensselaer, St Lawrence and Union – have often sought advice from ivy schools, but there is no indication yet that they will. ECAC Hockey is the only men’s hockey conference that has not yet announced any part of the programme for the 2020-21 season, because an Ivy League decision has not yet been made. It will be very difficult for the conference to continue working with all four teams (unless Rensselaer and Union play the game). — Chris Peters
To what extent are public or private coaches concerned about the postponement of the winter season in varsity sports?
The coaches of all men’s basketball teams make the public statements we expected in these scenarios. And the truth is that they are all working hard to create the conditions that we hope their athletes will be able to compete this season. But it seems that around the traditional non-congressional season, some people’s support and self-confidence is crumbling, while others think university basketball will only get that.
I really think there’s going to be a conference-free season, said one senior coach, while another ESPN said he didn’t think it was possible for his league to play this season. Coaches are more confident for the coming season in the competitions, where schools can make their own version of the bubble with training facilities, private dormitories on campus, short walks between buildings and charter flights. Adjacent to the basketball hall of Kentucky is the University of Kentucky, where a cook prepares meals for the players. But this situation is not for everyone. Again, the final payment of the NCAA tournament is the main motivation for these schools. — Myron Medcalf
Concerns are very high and are increasing as the number of cases at national level continues to increase. Very little confidence in the fact that the whole season is played in 27 or 28 games. If I contact coaches across the country, I would average for/under about 16-18 games. Much of this is simply due to the 14-day quarantine manual and the lack of separation between the different groups of posts. In football, you can pass several positive tests as you continue playing, and if the whole team has been quarantined for 14 days, you can only miss two matches. Basketball is another story. The team has only 13 players, and they all train together. You can’t separate an attack from defence or security and attack an entire practice. And 14 days means at least 4 races. If a team has two KOVID-19 cases throughout the season, there are at least eight games. — Jeff Borzello
On Wednesday, UConn-bus Genu Auriemma said he was sure the women’s basketball season would start on time in two weeks. But he also referred to university football, which has a wave of coronavirus outbreaks, to suggest that his current self-confidence doesn’t mean much. Let’s just say: I’m as confident as I was in college football when they started their season, Auriemma said. What for? Because everything’s fine now. Are you gonna be okay in two months? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. But I’m sure we can do what we have to do, and so far we’ve done everything we’ve been asked to do.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Men’s and women’s basketball is one of the winter sports that the Ivy League has decided to close due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Mr. Anthony Nesmit/Icon Sportswire
We’ll do what we have to do to make it work. Until when? Until we understand that it is not in our interest – it is mainly in the interest of the actors – to continue. — Graham Hayes.
Kim Malky, the Baylor women’s basketball coach, whose Lady Bears won the NCAA title in 2019, said her players understand that there are no guarantees for tomorrow. She says they should concentrate on what they can control.
We focus on basketball, but they’re human. You’re just, I don’t know, nervous, but it’s just unknown, she said.[KOWID-19] is here to stay, and we can do what we have to do, and as you can see all over the country, that’s going to happen. I collect trustees all over the country, even the NCAA, they just want you out of these games. It’s not about winning or losing. How do I tell Kim Malky it’s not a win/loss issue? But I understand the situation we are in with COVID and I need to figure out how we can survive and live and help our team improve, regardless of the outcome of the baseball game. — Mechel Foypel
Gentlemen’s College hockey season starts Saturday and Wisconsin travels to Notre Dame to open the G-10 season – Notre Dame is the only city participating in the hockey conference. Other conferences are expected to take place within the next 20 years. November’s starting. The Big Ten were only scheduled for the first half of the shortened season, while most other conferences were scheduled for all their shortened seasons. The NCAA coaches were apparently positive about the outlook for the end of the season, although they were cautiously optimistic. — Chris Peters
What are the most common COVID 19 and quarantine guidelines for schools and competitions?
It’s a challenge. The guidelines are different. It is clear that the NCAA guidelines are recognised. Many varsity basketball programs have already suspended teamwork for 14 days after a positive test in their programs, which is recommended by the NCAA. But that’s not the hardest part.
There are over 350 teams and unique requirements, depending on the state and sometimes the district. Do you want to play Hawaii? We need proof of a negative test 72 hours before we enter the island. In California, some schools have only recently been given the green light to go to work. At UC Irvine the players had a pre-season training with only six people in the gym at the same time and one band per athlete. Ohio left the Classic Crossover in South Dakota, which currently has the highest positivity rate in the country (over 50%), due to the 14-day quarantine regulation for people returning from very positive states. Michigan officials have described basketball as a risky sport. The state of New Mexico has decided to move its entire team this season because the state’s anti-competition rules apply.
The U.S. Sport Conference conducts tests three days a week, as recommended by the NCAA, but the CAA Hall of Fame is located in Philadelphia and is subject to city bylaws which, according to official CAA records, require participants to be tested seven consecutive days prior to competition. If you combine the schools of Division I in 49 states and a set of rules for states, districts and even cities, it’s easy to see how chaotic the sport can be. — Myron Medcalf
Which schools are most affected by COVID-19 and quarantine recommendations?
Of course, the NCAA’s 14-day quarantine manual made a lot of noise. Some of the best coaches are fighting behind the scenes to adapt these guidelines for the season. I think there is a collective concern that a 14-day quarantine could lead to long program interruptions and significant seasonal disruptions. One coach expressed support for the NFL rule, which allows asymptomatic players to return to the league five days after a positive result when they have tested negative with a reverse PCR test at intervals of at least 24 hours. — Myron Medcalf
Coaches are especially worried about the start of the season. A number of programs have recently been closed due to a positive KOVID 19 test, and now the games of the season have opened live. The coach of one of the programs completed earlier this month told me he had no idea how to physically prepare his team for matches in less than two weeks – especially if they had to be suspended from practice and training for an extra week. That’s the general feeling of college basketball. A 14-day blocking period is one thing, but not just 14 days before you can play. No team enters the game after two weeks of inactivity. And this is the scenario in which the coaches are worried about the season. — Jeff Borzello
Basketball coaches agree that the 14-day quarantine is problematic, especially for sports students who care about their physical condition and mental health.
We went from being able to contact the search to closing the full program, said Kurt Godlevska, the Butler women’s basketball coach. The effects on the mental health of our student athletes can be very complex.
Whether it’s the NCAA or the Greater East, Megan Duffy, Markett’s women’s basketball coach, hopes the 10-day delay will be taken into account instead.
I think if you have a whole program of healthy people sitting in a dormitory or an apartment at home, then I think there must be a way to look at it a little differently than we do now.
Creighton women’s basketball coach Jim Flanery has been added: I want the quarantine regulations to be at least carefully drawn up. I feel like it’s two weeks, and then it’s almost three weeks to get them in shape. I think it is possible that they can be tested in five, six and seven days and do not have a recommended quarantine period. — Graham Hayes.
To what extent are conferences seriously considering bubble-like scenarios to eliminate multiple league games in one event?
I don’t think it’s as bad as it should be. To be honest, several competitions have studied this option. Commissioner for the Great East Val Ackerman told a conference call last month that the bubble was an opportunity and that they had alternative plans for the second half of the conference season. The Western Mountains and West Coast conference have rightly talked about the shape of the bubble, although it seems they are trying to have a normal season for the moment. But that’s about it. There is a school of thought that is shared by most decision-makers and that says that amateur athletes at university shouldn’t go up for a long time. The financial aspect is another matter, and of course there are conferences that can’t afford to bubble all season – but the big conferences have to be able to come up with something if they really want to. — Jeff Borzello
I think any league that can’t create a bubble environment for league games should probably prepare for a chaotic season. More than 15% of the planned Division I matches have been postponed or cancelled because of KOVID-19. And this with one competition a week and less than 100 participating schools. At Basketball College, hundreds of teams across the country will try to play multiple games a week. It seems that the only way to achieve this is to create a model in which a site owns multiple matches in most leagues, especially those that do not have private trips to and from matches. But it is expensive, and it also creates academic problems for programs that have to leave the campus for a longer period of time. — Myron Medcalf
Fault! The file name is not specified. Ivy decided to drop most of her non-conference basketball program in July and canceled her season in November. Photo by Mr. Anthony Nesmit/Icon Sportswire
The female basketball coach, Marquette Megan Duffy, didn’t like playing in a bubble in the beginning, but she warmed up until she needed it.
A few months ago… The idea of housing our sports students in a closed room for a month or five weeks seems daunting. I don’t think we’re all trying to do that, she said. But if we move forward to see if we can make progress with our seasons, a bubble wouldn’t bother me personally. I think it should be a situation where time is shortened and you can get games.
Jim Flanery from Creighton also sees the positive side of the bubble environment, but again prefers a shorter duration.
I think it’s a great opportunity to get games, whether it’s a two-week bell or a three-week bell that I don’t want to do a month or a five-week bladder, he said. But I think if we could do it long enough so that it doesn’t affect our mental health and it also ensures that we have four, five, six games, I think that would be huge. Because I think we’re having a meltdown. — …Graham Hayes.
Only one of the college ice hockey conferences, the National College Ice Hockey Conference, is committed to creating a bubble in the first half of the season. They call it a pod, and she’ll be there from 1 to 20. December in Omaha, Nebraska. The conference, which is only men’s hockey, expects its eight teams each to play 10 games on a total of 40 podium finishes. A number of their schools have already completed their autumn semester, based on the themes of the conference, and the conference will provide academic support to schools where the courses are still being held during the opening of the capsule. The other conferences are held on campus. — Chris Peters
How many cancellations/deposits can university basketball supporters expect this season?
From what we have seen so far, cancellations and postponements are likely to become commonplace in college basketball, a sport that will begin with a record positive performance in the United States. In football, six or seven boys can be quarantined and the game continues. That’s not gonna happen in basketball. The other issue is location. Playing indoors is a challenge that basketball competitions outside the bubble have not met. Varsity basketball will be the first. I expect the officials to be very careful when advertising the competitions after positive tests. — Myron Medcalf
Should schools be expected to plan in-flight matches throughout the season, as this requires cancellation?
Absolutely. University football has created a number of limitations that have prevented teams from developing spontaneous games, but I think university basketball will require more flexibility. This weekend Ohio and Alabama, two powers, are looking for a match, but don’t want to play together because of the competition rules. In student basketball, I think Kentucky Willanova would play in a similar situation if they both had open dates because of KOVID-19. I think the goal will be to play as many games as possible, regardless of the conference. The selection committee could draw up a clause on COVID-19 and we could also have a broad scope of application. Don’t worry about March. Just play a few games and see what happens. I think that’s the position we should take. — Myron Medcalf
What’s new from the fans of the university basketball and hockey booths?
He’s changing. But it doesn’t look like a team is going to play for a large audience. Louisville and Kentucky have a yield of 15%, in accordance with state regulations. Duke just announced he won’t have fans at Cameron’s Hall Stadium. North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he didn’t expect to see fans in the stands this year and possibly next season. Fans aren’t a priority for schools that weren’t even allowed to compete. It’s all delicate. This year we will see a lot of empty spaces. Dr. Jamie Meyer, an infectious disease specialist at Yale University, said she didn’t see a scenario in which it would be safe to have fans in the arenas this season. — Myron Medcalf
Women’s basketball in South Carolina, which the nation has brought to each of the last six seasons, will have about 3,500 fans at home at the beginning of the season. That’s about 20% of the capacity of the Colonial Life Arena. Tickets are only available via mobile applications and are sold in groups of two, four and six seats, with each group divided by approximately six feet. Masks are mandatory for all fans and arena staff, and fans are not allowed to sit in the first five rows behind the field.
Oregon, which finished second last season, starts the season without fans in the Matthew Knight Arena. In September, the Pac-12 announced that its schools will not be allowed to receive fans at the home games until the end of the calendar year.
Baylor will have 25 percent of the power before the start of the season at Ferrell Center, equal to about 2,600 fans in the Campus Arena. — Graham Hayes.
Every hockey conference has its own rules. The NCHC Pod will have no spectators, but if the teams can play in the second half of their program, each institution can set its own conditions. Big Ten schools generally work with people with disabilities, with preference being given to the families of the participants. Hockey East has made the decision to visit the fans at the affiliated institutions, based on the guidelines of the national and local health authorities. Many schools have informed NHL teams that there will be a limited number of spots available for the scouts at their games. — Chris Peters
Do you think the NCAA will seriously consider postponing NCAA tournaments?
I’d say a small thought, but I’m not sure it’s serious. March Madness is the brand the NCAA will fight for. At the same time, NCAA Vice President for Basketball Operations Dan Gavitt, who has been asked to move the event several times in recent months, said he would prefer the events to take place in March and April. However, one source recently informed ESPN that the NCAA and its television partners may be more flexible than originally anticipated with regard to the dates of the tournaments. When asked, NCAA spokesperson David Worlock told ESPN that nothing had changed in the committee’s ongoing investigation into the various emergency plans. — Myron Medcalf
Do you think the NCAA will move one of the tournament seats, including the Final Four to Indianapolis and San Antonio?
I don’t think a website can count on a tournament being held on time. In fact, the NCAA has to organize the tournament for financial reasons. With last year’s cancellation, he lost $375 million. He can’t afford another, which means the NCAA will organize the tournament, even though he has to put each team in a bubble and pay for separate hotel rooms and daily tests. I think the tournament seats depend on the spread of the virus. — Myron Medcalf
Do you think the NCAA will seriously consider the availability of reserve teams in preparation for tournaments when positive tests prevent selected teams from playing?
I don’t know how the NCAA tournaments are gonna play without backup teams. A positive test can exclude multiple teams from the competition based on contact tracking. You may think you need one or two teams ready to step in and fight each other if necessary. When Gevitt was asked, he told ESPN that the rescue teams were on the table. And the basketball tournament went ahead and only worked because there were four reserve teams, all of which were deployed and followed the same protocols as the others. It also doesn’t seem too difficult to keep the biggest bet loss in the league after each round, just in case. Does that seem unusual to you? Of course you did. But also throughout the season, in which more than 300 teams are in a pandemic situation. — Myron Medcalf