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Sunday Conversation takes on the NCAA

The NCAA had all the time in the world to prepare and instead did nothing. Now college ball is in doubt.

Big East Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

For those of you not familiar with this conceit, Sunday Conversation is basically exactly what it sounds like. This site was born from messaging back and forth about Xavier, and that message carries on even while we write articles. This week, we took on Covid crisis and the way the NCAA decided to sit, wait, and then do nothing.

Joel: “Being hopeful for this season” has an entirely different meaning in 2020. I’m guardedly optimistic that Xavier’s roster has the pieces to get the Muskies back into the second weekend. However...

The rona is off the hook, with numbers dwarfing where they were when the NCAA pulled the plug last season. The Ivy League has already cancelled all winter sports, including those like hockey where they are a significant force. Seton Hall is in a 14-day shutdown, The U is cancelling games, and Winthrop has had a positive test that puts its place in Louisville’s MTE in question. All that, and numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction.

Meanwhile, Dan Gavitt believes the season is going to start on time. Setting aside for a moment the question of whether or not this is a good idea, what are your thoughts on if it’s even feasible?

Brad: If we remove the question of whether it is a good idea, it’s definitely feasible. The NFL has taken a somewhat Farraguttian approach to positive cases, there’s no reason basketball couldn’t. It would mean scrambling to reschedule games, playing whenever you can and, most importantly, dropping the mandatory 14 day off period. With that in place, the season becomes mostly a pipe dream. (I’m not arguing they should do that, by the way.)

Most of that is avoided with a bubble. The simple solution would have been bubble start of November for MTEs, quarantine, conferences bubble, quarantine, postseason tournaments. It wasn’t that hard to figure out. Of course this blew up overnight and the NCAA didn’t have anything along the lines of eight months to figure it out, so don’t blame them. They were probably using that time getting Ben Stanley and Adam Kunkel cleared to play.

Bryan: I think what we have learned is that a lot of money on the table suddenly makes things feasible, even in the face of a stupefying amount of evidence it should not be done.

Granada played a La Liga (as in the league Barcelona and Real Madrid belong to) game where they only had 6 players from their first team squad of 25 eligible because of a COVID outbreak that they had experienced while traveling to Cyprus for a Europa League game.

I realize that may be gibberish to people who don’t follow soccer, but the bottom line is they had to line up in a competitive fixture in one of the best and richest leagues in their sport with a team that was not even remotely competitive. Why? La Liga didn’t want to reschedule and risk losing their income from the game. For the record, they only lost 2-0.

I think with the NCAA missing out on that sweet sweet tournament revenue last year, they will push forward with this one whether it is a good idea or not because they can’t take another hit like that.

Braydan: It’s clearly possible to go forward with the season since MLB, NFL, and NBA seasons have all gone forward with varied degrees of success. College basketball could definitely go forward and cash in on all the TV money with little regard for corona. Obviously that isn’t a great idea but the season may very well just roll along.

I think it’s pretty much a done deal that there won’t be fans in attendance, or that the number will be limited. This is obviously gonna stink for people who wanna go see games and the guys who like playing in front of a big crowd but if it’s the thing that gets us a season then it’s a decent trade-off.

The thing that makes it more complex is how many people travel with one team. Coaches, players, managers, and athletic trainers would all need to be on the same page as far as what to do and what not to do. The NBA made a bubble work with their smaller number of teams so it seems like conference play at least could be done in a bubble and then the teams that make the tournament go to a bubble for whatever pod they’re in. This could work with very little damage done, I’m not entirely sure it will be though.

Brad: If the NCAA is serious about this actually happening they need to get a nationwide commissioner and move forward. Every conference doing different things just leads to this miasma of competing ideas. Some are good (full Big East bubble), some are bad like Dan Gavitt’s dog in the burning room approach.

What is shocking to me is how little prep anyone did for this eventuality. On a national level Dr. Fauci has been saying all year that this would get worse come the fall. The writing has been on the wall all year while this thing progressed mostly unabated. Here we are in the fall and college basketball has somehow been taken completely by surprise. No plan, no contingencies, nothing.