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Utah basketball must wait to play until January, BYU game still a possibility

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Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Oregon State won 70-51.(AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

Amanda Loman, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — All of the focus has been on college football this week with the announcements by several conferences, including the Pac-12, that the grid season would be postponed until at least the end of the year.

However, many other sports are being affected, including fall sports such as women’s soccer and volleyball as well as men’s and women’s basketball, which have already started workouts and usually begin their seasons in early November.

Unlike the Big Ten, which didn’t set any firm dates when basketball could or couldn’t start, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday no sports would compete in games before Jan. 1.

On a Zoom call Wednesday, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said he didn’t know yet how the basketball season would be scheduled but reiterated that games wouldn’t start until after Jan. 1.

That means the Dec. 12 game against BYU in Provo would not be played then, although it possibly could be played in early January if the conference finds room for nonconference games.

“The whole basketball season, how it’s constructed, what it will look like, will there be nonconference games ... that hasn’t been decided,” Harlan said. “If the basketball season doesn’t slide past March, if we’re even able to go, it may have to be a very truncated season.”

Harlan did say that Utah deputy athletic director Kyle Brennan had already reached out and talked to his counterpart at BYU to discuss the possibility of playing the basketball game. 

“Obviously it’s a game (we’d like to) reschedule,” Harlan said, “Maybe it will be league-only. If we get more space, then maybe we’ll have an opportunity (to play BYU). We’ll continue to work with them along with other universities both in fall sports and winter sports to put back together what we can.”

The Deseret News reached out to Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak for his reaction to the season delay, but he said, “I need to get more information before I can comment.”

CBS Sports reported that the league’s coaches were scheduled to have a call Wednesday to discuss details about the upcoming season.

On Tuesday, Scott left the door open to the idea that the league could play more than just a 20-game league schedule, depending on whether the NCAA decides to extend the basketball season, perhaps into April.

“We’ve got a basketball planning group that’s been working on different scenarios and some of it will depend on what the NCAA decides in terms of March Madness and the envelope for the season,” Scott said. “So we’ll obviously keep in close contact with the NCAA in terms of their plans for postseason.” 

Besides the BYU game in mid-December, the Ute men had non-league games scheduled against Missouri on the road and home games against Southern Utah, Fresno State, Cal-Fullerton, Cal Poly and Rice. They were also scheduled to play in one of the more prestigious preseason tournaments, the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas Nov. 25-27 with a strong field that included Duke, Ohio State, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Creighton, Wichita State and Memphis.

The Utah women’s basketball team is in the same boat as the men, not able to play until January.

“As much as we all want to practice and play like everything is normal, the reality is that it is not,” said Utah women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts. “I trust the medical professionals and I actually appreciate their reluctance to throw caution to the wind at the expense of young people’s health. We’ll get through this and back on the court eventually with a deeper appreciation for what we have.”