After the fall seasons were postponed, Rambler fans will finally have Loyola sports to watch in the not-so-distant future. Men’s and women’s college basketball are scheduled to start their seasons Nov. 25, according to a Sept. 16 NCAA press release.
The NCAA said the decision to start the day before Thanksgiving was due to “at least three-quarters” of Division I schools either finishing their semesters or moving the rest of the classes and exams online by that date, according to the release. This will create “a more controlled and less populated campus environment that may reduce the risk of COVID-19 that can occur between student-athletes and the broader student body population.”
“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the release. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”
Gavitt couldn’t be reached for comment.
The initial Nov. 10 tip-off date was moved back due to COVID-19 concerns. With a slightly later start date, the NCAA has chosen to lower the maximum amount of games each team is allowed to play by four. The NCAA’s release lays out the maximum number of games a team can play in men’s versus women’s basketball and how each sport is affected by participating in an early season tournament.
For men’s basketball, “teams can schedule 24 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to three games; 25 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to two games; or 25 regular-season games if a team does not participate in a multiple-team event.”
And for women’s basketball, “teams can schedule 23 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to four games or schedule 25 regular-season games if a team does not compete in a multiple-team event.”
Additionally, teams will only be required to participate in 13 games against other Division I teams to qualify for NCAA championship selection. This is a significant decrease from the 26-game minimum usually required.
It’s unclear if fans will be allowed to attend any college basketball games this season.
Although teams have been allowed to practice since July 20, starting Sept. 21, teams will participate in a “transition practice period.” During this time, teams are allowed to allocate 12 hours each week to strength and conditioning activities, sport-related meetings and skill instruction, with no more than eight hours spent on skill instruction. Up to that point, teams could only have up to eight hours of total team activities and just four hours spent on skill instruction. During this transition period, players must also have at least two days off during the transition period, according to the NCAA’s press release.
Starting Oct. 14, teams are officially allowed to begin preseason practices, and in the 42 days between the start of practices and Nov. 25, teams will be able to have a maximum of 30 practices. On a weekly basis, teams aren’t allowed to practice more than 20 hours, including no more than four hours per day. Teams must also have at least one day off per week.
As of publication, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) has yet to release a statement regarding potential changes to conference schedules or other restrictions imposed by the conference.
The MVC didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Loyola’s scheduling, especially non-conference, is still up in the air, according to a Loyola spokesperson.
For the first time since 2012, Loyola men’s basketball was scheduled to play DePaul University. It’s unclear if the Dec. 13 matchup at Wintrust Arena will remain on the schedule.
The Loyola men’s basketball team was also set to be one of the eight teams participating in this year’s Myrtle Beach Invitational Nov. 19, 20 and 22. However, the Myrtle Beach Invitational is one of eight early-season tournaments reportedly moving to the site of the NBA bubble in Orlando, according to CBS’ Jon Rothstein. New dates for the tournament have yet to be announced, but Rothstein added fans are not expected to be allowed to attend any of the eight tournaments being moved to Orlando.
In a video released with the NCAA’s announcement, Gavitt said the projected dates, formats and field sizes for the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments remain as scheduled, but the NCAA will remain “flexible and nimble to adjust as necessary” based on safety regarding COVID-19.
Later in the video, Gavitt said testing was “fundamental” to having successful men’s and women’s basketball seasons. He said he expects the tests capabilities to improve by late-November when the season starts, including more available “point-of-care testing and antigen testing.” However, Gavitt didn’t give specifics for how often student-athletes and coaches will be required to test for COVID-19 or what the procedures will be for positive tests.
As for Loyola, a testing plan for the season hasn’t been finalized yet, but the department said it will continue to regularly conduct testing.
“We have been doing and continue to plan to do frequent testing,” a Loyola Athletics spokesperson said.
Additionally, sources confirmed to The Phoenix no Loyola men’s or women’s basketball players have opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns as of Sept. 18.