As of this afternoon, more than 15 Division I men’s basketball programs have announced a COVID outbreak-related pause on all team activities, 10 of which are currently active. Games are being canceled left and right — in the past 24 hours alone, matchups between UNC and UCLA, Ohio State and Kentucky, and Duke and Loyola (which was only scheduled yesterday) have all been scratched. Several women’s programs — including UCLA, Eastern Michigan, and Morgan State — have postponed games this week as well as they enter COVID protocols. As schools scramble to find replacement opponents and South Carolina prepares to play Clemson tomorrow down six players due to COVID, we really have to be asking — is it time to put a short pause on the entire season?
With rising numbers and an already messed-up schedule, it might be time to call it — at least for a week or two. Basketball doesn’t have the same luxuries of football’s relative spacing and outdoor practices and games, and even with that, the NFL has been rocked by positive tests throughout the league. With the outbreak within college ball having taken a turn for the worse in the past few weeks, it’s time for the NCAA to make a nationwide decision on how to move forward with the sport while considering the health of the student athletes and the effects that continuation and cancellation will have on the next few months of college basketball.
Now’s the time for all that talk about amateurism and the educational priorities that supposedly define college sports. Why are schools continuing to put these kids at risk? You already know the answer — $$$. The “preserving the purity” talk only gets brought up when the student athletes are trying to benefit from the system. The NFL and NBA have a little more leeway because the players are employees (which is not to say that the pro leagues shouldn’t be considering a temporary stoppage as well), but the NCAA really needs to call for a pause if they are really focused on prioritizing the health and well-being of these students, which they constantly and self-importantly claim to be. A full allowance for continuation of the season with cancellations in specific cases could allow this spread to go on for a lot longer than it needs to, whereas a short cancellation of a few games moving forward would allow for more structured rescheduling as well as a more even playing field coming into the tournament.
Heading into March, there will likely be a pretty significant number of teams with forfeits or canceled games, so if that’s where the issue lies, maybe the NCAA should move the tournament back a week or two to even out the playing field throughout the conferences. Or they might just accept that the tournament seeding is going to look a little different and work with what they’ve got. But either way, there is pretty much zero justification for the season continuing through the holidays in the state we’re in right now — particularly without pay. Yeah, it does suck.
But it’s also the reality we’re living in, and it won’t do us any good to ignore what is clearly becoming a major problem.
It’s time to call it.