As college sports tries to determine if it can host competitions in the face of a global pandemic, football is getting a lion’s share of the attention.
Many of the same questions being asked about fall sports will soon be asked about those that play in the winter, in particular basketball.
Like all other NCAA basketball teams, the Mountaineer men had their 2019-20 season abruptly halted because of the coronavirus in mid-March just as the postseason was getting ready to commence.
Most went to their respective homes for four months until the returnees reconvened in Morgantown for offseason team activities on July 20. That start to workouts actually came two weeks later than originally planned. Tose sessions had to pushed back after five players and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
The basketball workouts have been ongoing the past few weeks, and the hope – like with football – is for an uninterrupted season is ahead.
In today’s world, though, there are few certainties.
“There are so many questions we don’t even have answers to involving basketball,” admitted WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons. “To this point our focus has been on football and the other fall sports, but now we’re going to start to look at basketball and the winter sports. What will they look like?”
Understandably the focus for Lyons and the Mountaineer athletic department right now is getting football, which is slated to start its season at home on Sept. 12 against Eastern Kentucky, and the other fall sports up and running. Questions about all fall sports other than football are again on the front burner after the NCAA cancelled all of its Division I fall sports championships on Thursday. Schools can still choose to play their schedules and league championship events if they so choose.
West Virginia’s men’s soccer team, which plays in the Mid-American Conference, has already seen its regular season cancelled. Women’s soccer, volleyball and cross-country teams could still compete, with the former duo limited to conference games only by the Big 12. Those squads can begin play no earlier than Sept. 1. Schedules have not been announced.
While WVU’s 2020-21 men’s basketball schedule has not yet been released, normally the season begins in early November – last year it began on Nov. 8. There is talk of pushing the start of the basketball season back, potentially even to after the first of the new year, but nothing is definite yet.
Many of the safety protocols that are in place for football also apply to basketball, but not everything is the same.
“For basketball, that’s a different animal because now you’re inside rather than outdoors, so what will that look like? What will that mean to ticket sales?” asked Lyons during an exclusive interview with the Blue & Gold News. “We’re doing some great things in the Coliseum – replacing the seats and the videoboard. We hope to get people in there.
“Our first competitions are scheduled for November, and I’m not sure yet what that will look like. I’m hopefully we can get football started and keep people healthy there. Then we’ll look at basketball.”
As with football and the fall sports, the coronavirus brings questions to the winter sports as well. For WVU, it’s just a matter of trying deal with one event at a time.
“We will start focusing attention on basketball soon, but for the past several months, our attention has been on the fall sports and getting them up and running,” said Lyons. “Soon we’ll start to look at the winter sports.”
(This was part 6 in a multi-part series from our interview with WVU A.D. Shane Lyons. In part 7, we’ll delved into the possibility of playing football season in the spring.)