Cal Basketball: Mark Fox Confident Science Will Win and a Season Will Be Played

Jeff Faraudo

Mark Fox remains completely sure there will be a college basketball season. Cal’s second-year basketball coach says he was only a little surprised when the Pac-12 Conference announced last week there would be no competition in any sport through the end of the calendar year.

Beyond that?

“Oh, I have a lot of confidence that we will have a season,” Fox said in an interview Tuesday. “Now, we may not have fans in the stands, but I’m very confident that science will win.

“We’l find a way to return to the court. And, ultimately, we’ll find a way to get the great fans back around the game. These are brilliant people. Science is going to win. It’s just a question of when.”

Fox says the ongoing conversations throughout the Pac-12 made it clear a shutdown this fall was likely. Now the conversation has turned to when sports might be able to return? And how?

College basketball typically begins playing games in November, and the Pac-12 this season planned to expand its conference schedule to 20 games, with the first two of those set for December.

Now all of that is in flux.

Asked what impact the fall postponement will have on Cal’s basketball schedule, Fox was honest.

“I would say I don’t know,” he offered. “Obviously, we’re listening to science and if science comes up with some sort of advancement in the next month or six weeks, you never know what decision will be made. I would say right now it’s kind of a holding pattern and we just don’t know.”

Communication with Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton has been excellent, Fox said, as it has been from the Pac-12. “We’re really going to wait and see what the NCAA says in mid-September and what direction does that take us in?”

Dan Gavitt, Senior Vice President of Basketball for the NCAA, announced Monday that the NCAA expects to make an announcement by mid-September about the course of the college basketball season.

Here is Gavitt’s full statement:

"As we prepare for the 2020-21 college basketball season, we have exercised patience and discipline in monitoring the effects of COVID-19 and making decisions regarding the season. We have learned a great deal over the course of the summer, and with health and safety being our priority, we have developed and studied contingency plans for alternatives to the scheduled Nov. 10 start date.

In the coming weeks, the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees will take the lead with me in a collaborative process of finalizing any recommendations for consideration by the NCAA Division I Council for the start of the college basketball season. By mid-September, we will provide direction about whether the season and practice start on time or a short-term delay is necessitated by the ongoing pandemic.

We recognize that we are living and operating in an uncertain time, and it is likely that mid-September will be just the first milestone for many important decisions pertaining to the regular season and the NCAA basketball championships. While circumstances may warrant flexibility resulting in a different and perhaps imperfect season, the ultimate goal is to safely provide student-athletes and teams with a great college basketball experience.”

Fox says patience is required while awaiting news in a fluid situation.

“There’s just a lot of unknowns,” he said. “There’s a lot of models that I’m sure they have in place. When it’s time to figure out which one is most appropriate, I’m sure they’ll have a plan in place to execute it.”

The Pac-12 is currently the only Power 5 conference that is not allowing any sports competition the rest of 2020. How that impacts scheduling of non-conference and conference games remains to be seen.

“If they move the (NCAA) tournament back a month, if they move it back two months, and we have May Madness, OK, great,” Fox said.

“How do we put together a schedule at that time? If they don’t make any adjustments, what does that look like?”

Could Fox imagine simply jumping into Pac-12 play without non-conference games when January arrives?

“I would say that probably everything’s on the table. Even playing more conference games. Less conference games. I would say every option is on the table.”

Fox says the example of the NBA and the NHL, where teams have successfully been put in a bubble to quarantine them from the outside world makes him wonder if something similar could work for college basketball.

Fox says he has drawn inspiration from watching the success of the NBA bubble?

“Now, do college teams have to have the exclusive bubble that the NBA has to play a whole season? I don’t think so,” he said. "If the numbers of the virus decrease and we get to a manageable level and we increase the point-of-contact testing and we get expedited results, I think you could have some situations where you play a couple games at a location, then maybe a couple weeks later you go some place and play a few more.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari suggests in this SI story that the NCAA tournament could be conducted in a bubble.

“There’s a lot of options out there that help me remain very confident we’re going to have a season,” Fox said. “Again, what are the advances going to be in the next three, four months? And what’s the trend of the virus look like at the same time? That will give us a clear picture as to what’s possible.”

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