Unprecedented. The word used to describe 2020. Oxford Languages defines unprecedented as “never done or known before”. As institutions work tirelessly to bring their students, faculty, and staff back to campus safely another organization is doing the same thing, the NCAA. After recommendations were made to the NCAA Council, voted on by them and taken to the Board of Directors for approval, the decision was made to start the NCAA D1 basketball season on Wednesday November 25th.
Alex Ricker Gilbert, Senior Vice President/Athletic Director of Jacksonville University’s Athletics Department, explains what went into the decision making process when discussing whether to have a basketball season or not.
“Health and safety was number one,” Ricker-Gilbert said. “The only way we were going to play basketball is if we thought we could do it safely and successfully. Close behind that was what do the student athletes want and they want to play.”
What some people might not know is that the basketball season was set to tip-off November 10th. But the NCAA Council received a recommendation to delay the start of the season by two weeks. The reasoning was because of the number of people that will be on campus at that time.
“Over 80 percent of campuses will be empty by then,” Ricker-Gilbert said. “This mitigates some of the risk because there’s less traffic and less density of people on campus. November 25th was felt to be a safer environment.”
According to the NCAA website, the council has come to the final decision that “teams can begin practicing on Wednesday, Oct. 14 and no exhibitions or scrimmages will be played.” The statement released also states that “the maximum number of contests was reduced by four, the Council recommended a minimum of four non-conference games and teams may play no more than 27 regular-season games.”
People who watch sports know that fans are a big part of any sporting event. But this season might be a little bit different. For November and December fans most likely would not be able to watch the games in person. If fans are allowed it will be a limited bases and social distancing will be practiced.
But while the NCAA and Athletic Departments are navigating what is the best way to keep everyone safe, coaches are taking safety measures to make sure their team stays safe during practice. Tony Jasick, Head Coach of JU’s Men’s Basketball team, explains that keeping his team mentally focused during this time is going to be the challenging part.
“This has been the longest period that our guys have went without a competitive basketball schedule,” Jasick said. “Their lifestyle has changed for most them. They’ve been on a normal calendar of what they need to do in the fall, winter, spring, and summer. But making sure they understand the big picture and to grasp how important everyday is and the opportunity that they have moving forward.”
Keeping everyone safe is the NCAA’s and JU’s main concern. This season you can expect to see coaching staffs and managers masked up on the sidelines, and players will be staggered on the bench. But the safety measures that are being taken behind the scenes are that players and coaches will be tested three times a week.
All of these safety measures are being done to ensure that everyone can watch the game they love in a safe manner.
“At the end of the day our student athletes want to play,” Ricker-Gilbert said. “We have to make sure we’re putting them in a position to play safely and feel as if they are in an environment that’s safe and that’s what we’re going to do.”