The Division I men’s and women’s basketball season will be getting a late start because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA Division I Council decided Wednesday that the start date for this season will be Nov. 25. The start date was pushed back from Nov. 10, so a number of previously scheduled games will either have to be canceled or rescheduled.
Waiting until the day before Thanksgiving to start the season means that fewer games will be played while students are still on campuses around the country, and thus the risk of COVID-19 spread will hopefully be reduced.
“A later start date makes sense. I’m comfortable with that,” Tech coach Mike Young said Wednesday in a phone interview.
Many schools plan to send their students home for Thanksgiving and not bring them back to campus until January because of the pandemic. According to the NCAA, at least 75% of Division I schools will have concluded either the fall semester or in-person classes for the fall semester by Nov. 25.
Basketball teams will no doubt be playing fewer nonleague games than usual this season because of both the later start date and because of pandemic-related concerns regarding testing, travel and budgets. But the council recommended that teams play a minimum of four nonconference games.
It will now be up to individual conferences to decide how many nonleague games they want to play this season. Young expects the ACC to make a decision soon.
“There are a lot of … things to be determined over the next couple of days on what this year’s schedule looks like for all of us,” Young said. “It’s essential that we have some form of nonconference play before heading into league play some time in December.
“I think we’re going to be able to play 6-8 nonleague games. … Has there been some conversation about [a schedule consisting of] all league games? Yes. Is that going to happen? I don’t think so.”
Because of the later start date, the council lowered the maximum number of regular-season basketball games a team can play from 31 to 27.
In other pandemic-related decisions, the council lowered the minimum number of regular-season basketball games a team must play to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament from 26 to 13. The council also prohibited any preseason basketball exhibitions or scrimmages this season.
• The later start date means the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team’s Nov. 10 home game with Presbyterian will have to be canceled or rescheduled. The same is true for the team’s Nov. 13 game with Davidson at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte. The decision also affects the Hokies’ home games with George Washington, Coppin State and Tennessee State.
The later start date does not affect Tech’s Nov. 27 home game with Marshall; a Dec. 9 home game with VMI; a Dec. 13 home game with Central Connecticut; a Dec. 19 game with Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City; a Dec. 22 home game with Maine; or the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
• The later start date affects the Tech women’s basketball team’s Nov. 11 home game with Campbell; a Nov. 15 home game with Liberty; a Nov. 18 home game with George Mason; and a Nov. 22 home game with William and Mary.
• Wednesday’s decision affects the Radford men’s basketball team’s Nov. 17 game at VMI.
It also affects Radford’s four games (at South Carolina, at TCU, at Norfolk State and home against Elon) in the on-campus portion of the Hall of Fame Classic. Radford is set to reap $150,000 for participating in that event. Radford coach Mike Jones said he hopes those games can be moved to December.
Radford’s other big paydays were spared by the decision — a Dec. 12 game at North Carolina State, which is paying Radford $85,000, a Dec. 16 game at East Carolina, which is paying RU $60,000; and a Dec. 19 game at Vanderbilt, which is paying RU $85,000.
• The decision affects the Radford women’s basketball team’s Nov. 10 game at North Carolina and a Nov. 15 game at Georgia.
• The decision affects VMI’s Nov. 10 home game with Goucher; a Nov. 14 game at Marist; the Nov. 17 home game with Radford; and a Nov. 22 home game with Presbyterian.
VMI’s three big paydays were spared — the Dec. 9 visit to Virginia Tech, which is paying VMI $95,000; a Dec. 22 visit to Wake Forest, which is paying VMI $90,000, and a Nov. 25-28 tournament at the University of Portland, which is paying VMI $85,000.
• Wednesday’s decision affects the Virginia men’s basketball team’s Nov. 19 visit to James Madison, as well as the UVa women’s basketball team’s Nov. 10 visit to JMU. James Madison is opening a new arena in November.
The other UVa men’s games affected, according to the Charlottesville Daily Progress, are a Nov. 10 home game with Gardner-Webb; a Nov. 13 game with Temple in Charlotte; and a Nov. 16 home game with Long Beach State.
In other council decisions Wednesday:
• FBS and FCS football teams who postponed their fall seasons to the spring can play no more than eight regular-season games, with the final such game occurring on April 17. FBS teams can also play in conference championship games and bowls next spring.
• The FCS playoffs, which were previously moved to the spring, will have just 16 teams next spring instead of the usual 24 (subject to Board of Directors approval). The playoffs will run from April 18 to May 15.
• FBS and FCS football teams who postponed their regular season to the spring can have fall practice this fall since they won’t be having spring practice next spring.
• There will be no Division I games or practices in any sport on Election Day on Nov. 3, as well as on Election Day in subsequent Novembers.