The NCAA announced a revised start date to the college basketball season 12 days ago, and within minutes, speculation was abound regarding scheduling and how teams were going to play out the season. Throw everyone in a bubble? Conference games only? Games with fans?
While the dust hasn’t settled on all the questions, it took less than a week for the MAAC to come out with a schedule.
As associate commissioner for men’s basketball Jordan Confessore explained, the process began long before the NCAA’s announcement.
When it came to preparing for next steps for the upcoming season, the conference had put together a working group made of school presidents, athletic directors, senior women administrators, and conference officials. As Confessore explained, the group went through multiple scenarios and put everything on the table. At the end of the day the group had two goals in mind: to maintain the health and safety of everyone involved and to complete an entire conference season.
As we saw with college football scenarios, school presidents, athletic directors and conference officials all have different goals and perspectives that they bring to the table in these discussions. While these different perspectives seemed to cause the college football scheduling process to drag out, Confessore thought the different perspectives were key to the process.
“It was important to hear all of the different sides and take those things into consideration when building out our plan,” she said. “Together we were able to narrow in on a plan that would be the best way to accomplish our goals.”
One idea that the working group debated was the idea of a bubble, similar to what we’ve seen in the NBA.
“We did our research and it was definitely on the table for a while,” Confessore said.
However, as the focus of the group remained on playing a complete MAAC conference season, the plan to play in on-campus arenas seemed to take flight.
“With everyone in the league having the same testing regiment, and doing trips without spending as much time overnight, and being diligent about how we do things, being able to accomplish that on campus was something we could do in a safe manner,” Confessore said.
With the decision being made to playing on campus, the next step was to have a plan in place to be released shortly after the NCAA starting date announcement.
“This was something that we wanted to act quickly on,” she said. “We wanted to pull something together and get the feedback from our coaches and administrators and make sure everyone was on the same page leading into the NCAA decision. Once we had the final decisions from the NCAA we were able to button it all up and have it ready for that point in time.”
The plan calls for the 2020-21 season to have a 20-game conference slate, with everyone playing each other, home and away. Just like normal. MAAC schools will have the chance to compete in non-conference games from Nov. 25 to Dec. 6 and conference play will begin on Tuesday, Dec. 8. Conference games will be held on Tuesdays and Fridays with the season culminating in Atlantic City for the conference tournament in March.
“When we developed this model we worked with a Tuesday/Friday schedule with the thought in the back of our heads that we’d be doing testing three times per week potentially based on NCAA requirements,” Confessore said.
Another interesting part of the MAAC schedule came with a window in February to reschedule games that could be postponed or disrupted, again, with the goal to ensure a fully played conference slate.
“We’re prepared for there to be some disruptions, so we have to be flexible and work on our toes as things come up and handle these on a case by case basis. We have to be prepared for anything to be thrown our way.”
And they better be. If the 2020 college football season has taught us anything, it’s that there is bound to be a few unexpected twists.