SALT LAKE CITY — It’s a date many college coaches and athletic administrators have had circled on their calendars for the past month or so.
The NCAA Division I Council is meeting Wednesday to make some decisions about the upcoming seasons for sports other than football. College basketball, which had its season cut short earlier this year because of coronavirus, is the most prominent sport, but volleyball and soccer coaches are also awaiting to hear how their sports might be affected.
Since August when various teams started practicing, some schools have been in sort of a holding pattern, practicing regularly but waiting for more definitive decisions from the NCAA. Some schools in the Pac-12, those in California and Oregon, haven’t even been allowed to practice because of mandates by their states.
The biggest decision coming out of the Wednesday meeting will be when to start the college basketball season.
In late August, the NCAA revealed four potential starting dates for college basketball games — the original Nov. 10 date, along with Nov. 20, Nov. 25 and Dec. 4. Then last Friday, the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees met and decided on a Nov. 21 date, CBS Sports reported, and the NCAA Council needs to vote on that.
That would be good news for all of the state’s basketball programs, except the University of Utah, which is a member of the Pac-12, which last month announced that no sports would be played before Jan. 1.
However, because of a new partnership with a company called Quidel Corporation, each Pac-12 school would have the ability to provide instant testing for coronavirus for athletes beginning in late September and that may allow the league to modify its fall schedule.
Sources in the Pac-12 office have confirmed that the league could be in position to move its starting date for sports up from Jan. 1, presumably to whatever date the NCAA decides, thanks in large part to the testing improvements.
Also an ESPN report Monday said the Pac-12’s “most aggressive” return plan for football targets a mid-to-late November start, similar to when basketball could begin. If basketball is able to move up, it makes sense football could as well.
When asked Monday, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak preferred not to talk about the speculation of an earlier start date, but late last month he said he was confident that his team would be ready to go if the start of the season was moved up earlier than Jan. 1. Usually college teams get six weeks of full practice time before the season, after practicing for four hours a week in the fall.
“In this environment when things are subject to change, we’ve determined we would be comfortable with a month to get ready,” Krystkowiak said. “Maybe we pivot, but we’re staying open under a lot of different scenarios, It’s kind of a holding pattern.”
One of the reasons for the Nov. 21 start date is the number of multi-team events (MTEs) that are played the week of Thanksgiving.
Utah happens to be in one of the most prestigious MTEs, the Battle 4 Atlantis scheduled for Nov. 25-27 in the Bahamas. However because of issues traveling out of the country, that tournament is likely to be moved to Sanford Pentagon in Sioux City, South Dakota. That news was tweeted by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports on Monday.
Other teams scheduled to play with Utah in the tournament are Duke, West Virginia, Memphis, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Creighton and Wichita State. Rothstein also tweeted that the Maui Invitational Nov. 23-25 will be moved to either Indianapolis or Asheville, NC.
Whether the Pac-12 will allow some of its athletic teams to play this fall while others are forced to sit because of state mandates, is unclear at this time.
Last week, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, called the new testing equipment a “game-changer” and hinted that the availability of the rapid testing would possibly allow for competitive sports before the end of the year.
Soccer and volleyball teams are not playing games this fall, but are allowed to practice up to 20 hours per week. The NCAA may amend those rules and cut the number of hours teams can practice each week and could clarify when championships can be played.