TBT Removals, Bubbles Bursting Show Challenge That Awaits College Sports

A few days ago, I observed that the return of pro sports didn’t offer a blueprint for that of colleges, as the protected environment of “the bubble” that leagues such as the NBA, MLS and NHL are implementing would be impossible to create in collegiate environments.

Turns out that many of those bubbles are popping like the ones issued from a child’s toy on a summer day.

Exhibit A is The Basketball Tournament, which mandated strict quarantine conditions and frequent testing once isolated. Best Virginia, the team of WVU alumni, didn’t even make it inside the bubble, with multiple positive tests causing its withdrawal before even submitting to the first round of TBT testing prior to going to the tournament site in Columbus.

Since then, however, four more TBT teams have been removed from play because players from each of those squads tested positive for the coronavirus. Three squads, including Mid-American Unity, Jackson TN Underdawgs and Playing For Jimmy V (which ironically was the initial replacement team for Best Virginia), also didn’t make it to Columbus.

John Flowers applies a game face to a dunk

The fourth, though, shows the fragility of even the strictest isolation and quarantine protocols. Eberline Drive, which hadn’t played a game yet but was on what TBT called “The Island” of protection in Columbus, was removed from the competition on Sunday after a positive test of a team member. Their elimination means that five of the original 24 teams selected for TBT have now been removed from the event.

While this does show, on one level, that testing can help slow the spread of COVID-19, it also shows just how fragile even the best-laid plans of isolation and limited social contact can be. For Eberline Drive’s positive test, the questions are many. Was the player involved exposed prior to entering The Island, but didn’t show up as a positive test until later after an incubation period? If not, were initial tests faulty, or returned an inaccurate result? Whatever the reason, that’s just one of a number of potential pitfalls that await on college campuses – along with the uncontrollable factors of classroom and social interaction between athletes and their thousands of classmates.

This wasn’t just a one-off, either. Major League Soccer has already removed one team from its closed event at Disney World, and the game of another has been postponed after five of its members tested positive.

Wth such exemplars, there’s no way to assume that college sports will fare any better. In all likelihood, they will be much worse. That’s not to say that there will be no college sports this fall, even though things are looking bleak at the moment. However, it’s dead certain that many teams won’t play a full schedule, some teams will have interruptions and comebacks, and many “innocent” teams that weren’t forced to close down play will find gaps in their own schedules due to opponents that did. And that’s the best case scenario right now.

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That last leads to another issue. The safety of West Virginia’s student-athletes is the first order of business for WVU administrators, but that extends beyond testing and cleaning on its home grounds. What about the teams WVU will be playing? Do their protocols meet those of West Virginia, or at least minimal guidelines offered by the CDC or ICS?

For the football team, it would be safe to assume that non-conference FBS opponents Florida State and Maryland will meet them, as will the other members of the Big 12. Eastern Kentucky, without the budget of WVU’s other FBS opponents, appears to be in line with current best practices as well. A recent testing round at EKU found three student-athletes and three staffers with positive tests, and Eastern Kentucky immediately isolated them and began contact tracing.

“The University has identified the spaces where these individuals were located and immediately engaged a specialty contractor for professional cleaning specific to COVID-19 that is in-line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines,” EKU said in a release.

Football, of course, is the highest profile program, but the questions around opponents don’t stop there. A number of West Virginia’s early season opponents in basketball, volleyball and other fall sports are definitely of limited budgets, and some are likely to have testing levels that are well short of what WVU is doing. Is that enough of a concern to cancel games? What is the minimum level of testing, cleaning and protection that must be met for a game to go on?

Those are just some of the many questions to be wrestled with over the coming months.

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    A few days ago, I observed that the return of pro sports didn’t offer a blueprint for that of colleges, as the protected environment of “the bubble” t
    [See the full post at: TBT Removals, Bubbles Bursting Show Challenge That Awaits College Sports]


    There is no way that college sports is going to resume before a vaccine is found.  While we would all like for it to happen, we’re just fooling ourselves to think that it will.


    You make good points Kevin.  A coach can try to restrict their athletes from close contact  and practicing safe measures to prevent potential contact when in public but realistically know that a certain percentage will not follow the rules and eventually contract the virus jeopardizing their team and staff.  Once this happens it’s just a matter of time to shut down a program.

    Another point that I don’t see discussed much is training continuity if a season is suspended or cancelled.  I can’t speak for football and basketball but the Olympic sports need training consistency to not lose the fine tuning of their sport.  A month off wouldn’t be damaging but shutting down a season from both practice and competition would deteriorate all the fine tuning both physically and mentally from training.  Land training both weight and specific exercises only go so far.



    Good points, Rip. The Ivy League just shut down all fall sports, and will not play until spring at the earliest. It did say that training could continue, which should help address one of your thoughts, but not preparing to play games does seem to remove a bit of the competitive edge.


    There is no way that college students or athletes will “socially distance” when school starts.  To think that they will is foolish.  Again, if you think that they will wear masks outside of their rooms/apartments you are again foolish.  It just won’t happen.  Now, if they close down all of the bars in town there will just be mega house parties   ……   again, not socially distancing.

    That being said, COVID will spread to an extent throughout the university.  One player on the BB or FB team doesn’t have symptoms, but is positive can have a devastating effect on the team.  There is no way that the model of TBT or MLB or NBA or NHL or NFL can roll over to college athletics.  There is no way you are going to keep college athletes hunkered down and away from the rest of the population.



    Here’s the bigger problem.  What happens to the scholarship numbers and the SR’s if there is no season for FB or BB?  Do the SR’s get another year if they have already used their RS year?  If they do get an extra year what happens to the schollie limit?  Huggs and Brown are continuing to fill the upcoming classes.  What happens if the NCAA says that SR’s are allowed to play another year?  In BB, if both SR’s are given an extra year and every player comes back and Huggs fills the 3 available slots he could end up with 15 players.  It gets even more complicated in FB when Brown has 16 RS SR’s and 25 incoming recruits next year.

    On second thought about FB, with only a few kids leaving this would bring us finally up to the 85 limit.  But it could get very sticky for many programs.

    Then, after the SR’s, what do you do with the JR’s, SO’s and FR that have already used their RS year?  Do they only get to play a total of 3 years because a full year was cancelled?


    Interesting things to think about. Even if Sr’s are given an extra year, how many will opt out anyway?  If Sr’s get extra year, then all classes should.


    I would take the opposite tack on the FCS football schools. I would postulate that their financial survival depends almost entirely on the income from these one-off games against the P5 schools. Therefore I would think they would be even more vigilant on their end in terms of their Covid 19 protocols to assure those games go off without a hitch.


    I believe that I heard the Ivy League commissioner say that eligibility would be extended for their fall sports athletes.  Would the P5 commissioners do the same if forced to abandon the fall?  And will the NCAA approve the action of the Ivy League or the P5’s if it becomes necessary?  For the record, the Ivy League commissioner was essentially the messenger – the decision was taken by the school presidents.  I would assume that this would be the method of decision for any P5 actions as well.

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Home Page forums TBT Removals, Bubbles Bursting Show Challenge That Awaits College Sports

Home Page forums TBT Removals, Bubbles Bursting Show Challenge That Awaits College Sports