The Daily Gamecock

Column: 2020-2021 college basketball season should be postponed

College basketball will start on Nov. 25 after an eight-month break, but it should not. 

All sports came to a stop when the pandemic first started, including college basketball. The NCAA champion was not crowned, and many conference tournaments ended with no champions.

As time went on, things started to look better. After a large spike of COVID-19, cases dropped and sports leagues began looking for ways to start play again. 

The MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL all returned to play. College football is being played in all Power Five conferences, so naturally people would assume it would be okay to move forward with college basketball season. 

However, the United States, as predicted by various experts, is going through a harsh second wave of the coronavirus. There have been more than 12.4 million total confirmed cases, and there have been over 100,000 new cases every day since Nov. 4. The college football season has had plenty of canceled games, and many programs have had a number of players contract COVID-19 throughout the season.

The coronavirus has been proven to affect student athletes even after they have recovered from it. A study published by JAMA Cardiology found that four of 26 student athletes who previously contracted the coronavirus had a form of heart inflammation. These people experienced mild to no symptoms.

For the safety of players and coaching staff, the season must be postponed until the number of coronavirus cases drops.

Unlike college football, a college basketball roster consists of about 15 players, meaning each positive test result can set the team back. Due to contact tracing protocols, one positive test can lead to a majority of the team having to quarantine. This will lead to canceled games, which can affect a team’s entire schedule. 

Basketball is a contact sport. It happens every game. Players are constantly moving around and bumping into one another. It is impossible to keep the players separated. 

Plus, certain schools allowing admission to fans creates an environment where the spread of COVID-19 can flourish. It has been proven that it is easier for the coronavirus to be transmitted in indoor facilities due to less ventilation and how challenging it is to social distance.

Many people have voiced their concerns, including Iona men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

“Save the Season. Move the start back. Play league schedule and have May Madness. Spiking and protocols make it impossible to play right now,” Pitino said on his Twitter account.

Pitino makes a good point. Games being pushed back would give time for the large spike in cases to go down. A number of teams have already canceled games. Duke canceled its men's season opener, Virginia and Florida's men's teams canceled their game against each other and Tennessee men's basketball coach Rick Barnes tested positive for the virus.

Keeping players and fans separated has already been challenging in football. Storming the court is common in college basketball, and there is no guarantee that large crowds of students and spectators can be stopped from doing so. Notre Dame football already had that problem this year when its fans stormed the field after beating Clemson.

The safety of the players and coaching staff should be at the top of the NCAA’s priorities. Unfortunately, the NCAA has already proven it is a greedy business. According to a survey reported on by USA Today, 79% of Americans think "big universities put money ahead of student-athletes." They will do whatever it takes to make their money, regardless of the major health risk.

College students cannot live in a bubble or have a bubble mentality because they are students. They have to go to class and go get food, and they interact with a number of people every day. Keeping student athletes from engaging in social activities such as parties is impossible. There is nothing anyone can do to stop them. 

In order to play a complete, competitive and fair college basketball season, time must pass. COVID cases have to drop to limit the spread within teams. With the holidays coming up, people will travel and numbers will go up. Players will travel and a fair share can end up infected. This would be horrendous for college basketball and can put big-name teams out of competition for a while. 

Instead, they should hold off on starting until the spring season. Let players go on a much-needed holiday break and help flatten the curve. When it is determined safe to return, games must be held without fans. Likewise, the schedule needs to consist of games where teams can travel by bus instead of having to board a plane and risk infection.

So, for the sake of college basketball, push the season back. Give the country time to recover. Do not add to the count and put players at risk for future health problems related to COVID. If the season is not pushed back, it can be over in the blink of an eye.


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