If all goes as planned, Indianapolis for the eighth time will host college basketball’s biggest weekend next April. The COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt change the look and feel of the championship; it has already altered the college basketball season. Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of basketball for the Indianapolis-based NCAA, says as schools prepare for the November 25 start to the season, the outlook is “very encouraging and optimistic.”
In an interview with Inside INdiana Sports Host Bill Benner, Gavitt said the delayed start date for the season was not arbitrarily chosen.
“By that date, three-quarters of Division I schools across the country will have either completed their first semester in total, including exams or at least sent the general student body home to finish classes virtually and have exams online,” said Gavitt. “So it creates a much less populated campus environment, a much more controlled environment to start the season safely across the country.”
The shortened season will have 27 maximum regular season games, 13 minimum regular season games and a minimum of four non-conference games. Gavitt said the minimum requirement was put in to assist schools.
“Understanding that there may be significant disruption on campuses with schedules and/or just even the financial challenge of the testing that’s required to play a safe and responsible basketball season, it may be that some conferences like the Ivy League, for example, that may not start until after January 1st only plays conference games and only plays a reduced schedule.”
The NCAA in September released health and safety guidelines for college basketball to resume, including requirements for testing, travel considerations, and access to the court and bench areas.
Gavitt says getting the season back on track was a “grand compromise” among the NCAA member institutions.
“Some thought that we should leave the start of the season on November 10th; others thought maybe we should move the start of the season all the way back to January. But where we ended, I think, was the best consensus position and we worked really weeks over the course of the entire summer, learning from what was going on with college football and the NBA and WNBA and got to a point I think that we were comfortable with a lot of different things in place to start the season successfully in late November.”
Gavitt says there is a comfort level with having the Final Four in Indianapolis, assuming everything goes as scheduled.
“We’ve been working on it for years, of course, but more specifically since June. You know, we’re considering having to make some adjustments as necessary, but we’re really excited to be having the Final Four here in Indianapolis, which will be a celebration, I think, of sorts for the game of college basketball after last year’s disappointment of canceling the tournament.”
In addition to the Division I championship in Indianapolis, the city of Evansville will host the Division II men’s basketball championship March 24-27, while Fort Wayne will host the Division III men’s basketball championship March 19-20.