Sports Take: NCAA won’t cancel college basketball

Baylor men's basketball's Jared Butler dribbles past the Kansas defense during a game at the Ferrell Center. The Bears and the Jayhawks were top contenders for the NCAA tournament before it was canceled in early March. Lariat File Photo

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

College football is in limbo. The Big 10 cannot seem to make a decision and the Pac 12 will not play sports until the fall. And while FBS games will be played on Saturday, there are questions as to how long college football will last before the coronavirus spreads to too many teams.

It would seem that this does not bode well for college basketball and the likelihood of it having a season. But I am willing to guarantee that college basketball will play a regular season and NCAA tournament this year. Here’s a few reasons why.

Firstly, the NCAA cannot financially afford to miss out on revenue from another NCAA tournament.

It is reported that the NCAA makes over 800 million dollars each tournament solely from its television deal. Even the NCAA website admits that the organization makes a vast majority of its revenue from “television and marketing rights fees” from the NCAA tournament.

Missing another NCAA tournament would be financially catastrophic for the NCAA. The incentive is there for the NCAA to try as hard as possible to have a college basketball season.

The NCAA lacked this type of incentive with college football, as the NCAA does not own the College Football Playoff and therefore cannot make any money off of it. While college football may be the NCAA’s most popular sport, college basketball is what keeps it financially viable.

Another promising development for college basketball has been the NBA funded SalivaDirect Test from Yale. The test, estimated to cost ten dollars, would present an inexpensive and quick option to test players daily.

This test would make it possible for all teams, including small mid-majors, to play college basketball affordably and safely.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the test emergency authorization for it to be made available for public use.

The potential for the NCAA to create a bubble to play conference games and the NCAA tournament is another reason to be confident that there will be college basketball next season.

For obvious logistical reasons, such as roster size and facility availability, a bubble is much more realistic for college basketball than college football.

The NBA and NHL have shown that a bubble will work if the correct precautions are taken. NCAA president Mark Emmert has seemed receptive to the idea of a bubble as well, telling the NCAA Social Series he thinks it’s “perfectly viable.”

“There’s a way to do it,” Emmert said. “Will it be normal? Of course not. Will it create other conflicts and challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah. We want to make it work for these students.”

Coaches have voiced their support for a bubble as well. Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari told The Intersection on ESPN Radio that a bubble can be realistic for college basketball.

“The thing that’s happened for all of us in basketball is the NBA and the WNBA have shown a path for us to have a season,” Calipari said. “We can play the NCAA tournament in a bubble.”

The final advantage that college basketball has is time. College basketball has had since last March to observe other sports leagues and develop a plan to play the 2020/21 season. The NBA has also provided them with a blueprint for how to successfully play basketball in a pandemic.

Furthermore, college basketball still has time. They can watch college football and avoid any of the mistakes that it makes. Simply put, the NCAA has the ability to take the best precautions and safety measures from all of sports and put them into use for college basketball.

But at the end of the day, there is too much at stake for the NCAA and its member institutions for there not to be a college basketball season. So, come hell, high water or COVID-19, college basketball will have a season.