Academic Scheduling Changes Could Have a Major Impact on Basketball Season

Christopher Walsh

The University of Notre Dame announced that it will move up the fall semester two weeks, beginning the week of Aug. 10, and forgo fall break in October in order to end the semester before Thanksgiving. 

The plan, something athletic director Jack Swarbrick indicated to Sports Illustrated was a possibility last week, will include comprehensive testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements, and enhanced cleaning of all campus spaces. The university has identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine students who have been in close contact.

“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” Father John I. Jenkins said in a release. “Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”

A few schools like South Carolina and Marquette have already made similar changes to their academic calendar, and more are expected. 

When announcing its plans, South Carolina announced: "Our best current modeling predicts a spike in cases of COVID-19 at the beginning of December, which also will likely coincide with traditional flu season."

While that increases the likelihood that colleges will try and play the 2020 football season in its entirety, it does raise more questions on the other end, and specifically with winter sports and basketball. 

"That season usually begins in early November," Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated said. "And some of the biggest games really are played late November, early December, on through into the Christmas break and beyond. Universities are saying that campuses need to be shut down and students need to be home for safety during what is a predicted second outbreak of the coronavirus. Does it really make sense to have the basketball teams toiling away, producing television inventory? Or is that bad optics for universities to handle for that and other winter sports?

"I think there's a possibility we could be looking at a basketball season that is postponed and doesn't start until January, possibly even late January, and maybe it's just a conference-only season. Lots of things obviously to be ironed out here. But as schools begin to alter the academic calendar, time to start thinking about what that is also going to mean for the athletic calendar."

Alabama is not believed to be considering a similar move, at least not at this time. 

College Football 

USTA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline was the guest on this week's 'Beyond the Baseline' podcast, which is especially notable because he also has the same position with the NCAA. 

He had a lot of really interesting things to say about sports coming back, but made it pretty clear that fans in the stand are probably going to have to wait, especially in football. 

"He seems to think that coronavirus can be contracted on the surface of balls, which I had not heard before," Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated said. "But that's something to consider. Maybe we need to all wear gloves when we play every sport and then we talk specifically about tennis and what's it going to take to have the U.S. Open. 

"He had some really interesting thoughts. They involve a quarantine of players before they come into the United States and compete or once they once they get here. But he thinks it can be done."

Baseball 

A Sports Illustrated survey on the effects of the pandemic showed that a group of minor league teams are at risk of collapsing. 

“You can’t sleep at night, knowing some of the things you’ll have to do to survive,” says Jeff Savage, the president of the Triple A Sacramento River Cats.

"We’re going to see bankruptcies, team closures. Some owners will be forced to sell, to just give up," says one owner. "That absolutely will happen, and sooner, rather than later."

Specifically, 68 replied:

• 35% said they're seriously concerned about being able to operate in the future

• 74% said they're seriously concerned about the same for other teams

• 50% have laid off or furloughed employees

• 81% took PPP loans

The loss of a team would be felt throughout baseball towns across the country. One family in Colorado Springs, Colo., spent last season hosting two Rocky Mountain Vibes players in their home. 

The end of minor league baseball is more than losing a team. For the Addington family, it's about losing a part of their heart and soul.

“Minor league baseball as we know it is no longer going to exist,” says Jordan Kobritz, a professor of sport management and law at SUNY-Cortland with investments in two teams.

What happens when a town is at risk of losing its minor league baseball team due to the pandemic? Robert Sanchez has the full story: 

Minor-league baseball facing major changes
Sports Illustrated

Did you notice?

 How the Chicago Bears’ new quarterback room is handling the virtual offseason.

• Ben Pickman spoke with several of the players from the 1999 Bulls about life after Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson.

• Inside Peyton Manning’s 2012 free agency decision.

The lighter side 

• A soccer team in South Korea was forced to apologize after replacing fans in the stands with sex dolls.

• LeBron says he started training in football during the 2011 NBA lockout.

• At 47, Bartolo Colon says he wants to play one more season in MLB.

For more SI Hot Takes

Comments (2)
No. 1-2
Joey Blackwell
Joey Blackwell

Editor

Great. Coronavirus on footballs. Not even masks can protect against that.

Christopher Walsh
Christopher Walsh

Editor

Tennis balls ... baseballs ... softballs .... volleyballs ... track equipment ... gymnastics equipment ...


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