NCAA Planning 'Special' March Madness Tournament in 2021, VP of Basketball Says

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2020

Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball, talks about events that are scheduled around the NCAA men's Final Four basketball tournament to be held in Indianapolis in April, during a press conference in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

As the 2020 college football season continues to crumble because of the COVID-19 pandemic, focus has begun to shift on what may happen to college basketball. 

For now, the NCAA remains committed to March Madness returning in 2021. NCAA Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said Wednesday fans should prepare for a "special" event after this year's cancellation:

"We are going to have a tournament. It's going to be special. We have our preferences about how we'd like to have it be, but if we have to adjust to the virus, which we don't control, we will adjust accordingly. The health and safety of the players and the coaches and all the people around the games—the referees, the fans—will be primary. But ultimately it will also include determining a national champion in the fairest and most equitable way that we can under these unusual circumstances. So, I think it's important to note: We're gonna have all sorts of contingencies and plans if it's necessitated. We're just not in the position to be able to talk about those in the middle of August, because that's not what our primary goal is."

Fall sports have already been canceled in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and several other conferences. The ACC, SEC and Big 12 are currently moving forward with a fall schedule, though that is subject to change.

All conferences have maintained they are committed to winter sports. However, it's hard to see any of the issues currently plaguing college football changing anytime soon. The Pac-12 already canceled all sports through the end of 2020, including basketball.

Schools and conferences are going to be potentially liable for putting players in harm's way during a pandemic. The NCAA has ruled conferences cannot require schools to have players sign waivers, which puts the onus on the conferences to make decisions.

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The pandemic may be spreading at a slower rate by the scheduled beginning of the college basketball season, but having a vaccine by November is unlikely. 

A conference-only bubble, followed by a bubbled NCAA Tournament, may be the most realistic option. The NCAA and conferences will likely push off any potential alterations to the last minute for revenue purposes—and because a bubble poses its own complications for student-athletes—but they will hopefully be better prepared than fall sports.