The NCAA has developed several contingency plans for alternative schedules for Division I basketball, Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said in a statement Monday. The Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees will finalize their recommendations for the start of the season and will decide by mid-September whether the season will start on time or be delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“While circumstances may warrant flexibility resulting in a different and perhaps imperfect season, the ultimate goal is to safely provide student-athletes and teams with a great college basketball experience,” Gavitt said.

The NCAA’s announcement comes in the wake of a decision by Mark Emmert to not hold nationwide fall sport championships. The Big Ten and Pac-12 called off fall football last week and only a few FBS conferences are left playing football. Players and coaches in the Big Ten, meanwhile, have advocated for a fall season, including a group of Michigan parents who sent a letter outlining their reasons on Monday morning. As other Power Five conferences plan to go ahead with their fall sports seasons, any issues that may arise could impact the committee’s recommendation on the start of the basketball season. 

Although both players and coaches across the NCAA have been outspoken in their support for a return to college sports, epidemiologists are concerned that traveling for sports might exacerbate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the NHL and NBA have found success by “bubbling” all personnel together to minimize travel and potential for the disease to spread, questions have arisen around the practicality of this for college athletes, and recent outbreaks in Major League Baseball have raised apprehensions about travel sports. COVID-19 links to myocarditis, or inflamation of the heart muscle, have created questions about the long-term health effects of the virus in athletes.

In a bit of positive news for sports, the FDA approved a saliva-based COVID-19 test this week that could be turned around in 24 hours or less. Widespread usage could help solve the testing situation and open the door for activities like sports and school to go on more safely.

The recommendation will likely also be impacted by colleges’ handling of students’ return to campus for the fall semester, and any subsequent changes in the virus’ situation. 

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