Playing college basketball during a pandemic is stupid

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UConn women’s basketball team played against South Carolina in February of 2019. It was announced on Monday that the UConn women’s basketball team has to pause all team activities for two weeks due to a positive COVID-19 test in the program, which begs the question: Is it safe to be playing college basketball right now?

It was announced Monday that the UConn women’s basketball team has to pause all team activities for two weeks due to a positive COVID-19 test in the program. As a result, the team’s first four scheduled games needed to be postponed — including a highly-anticipated matchup vs. Louisville.

A couple of weeks ago, the men’s team did the same thing. “Luckily” for them, it was far enough before the season where no games had to be cancelled or postponed.

It’s not a popular or fun opinion, but it needs to be said: Playing college basketball right now is irresponsible.

There is no safe way to play college basketball right now, plain and simple. The NCAA is sending a message that they value monetizing the student-athletes over their health and well-being, and the colleges and universities following suit are doing the same. Can’t lose out on that advertising revenue, right?

It’s one thing for the MLB or NFL to travel around the country for games, they only have 30 and 32 teams respectively — and much deeper pockets. No, we’re talking about literally hundreds of programs around the country that are about to attempt to play college basketball during a national pandemic.

College basketball is in a completely different boat than even college football. Not only are there far fewer football programs, but they are at most playing one game per week. 

The UConn women’s team had four games scheduled over a nine day span to begin the season. The men’s team has two games in the next three days and then five games in a 13-day span starting about two weeks later.

It’s not a popular or fun opinion, but it needs to be said: Playing college basketball right now is irresponsible.

The only feasible “safe” way to have college basketball this season would be to have it in a bubble, but that’s just not a remotely realistic idea. Putting aside how expensive it would be for conferences to safely make bubbles for both men’s and women’s programs, there’s just no way the players would be getting the same quality of education.

If a bubble happens, the NCAA might as well just drop the pretence that the student-athletes are actually still students and getting an equal education to that of other students at the university. Call them what they are, money-making machines that help the NCAA make somewhere around $1 billion (yes, with a B) in revenue annually while not getting paid a cent themselves. But that’s another topic entirely.

Let’s take a look at how poorly the attempt to play college basketball is going so far. The NCAA website has a live tracker of COVID-19 related news that pertains to college basketball, and the page is littered with cancellations and teams pausing team activities.

Along with UConn, the Tennessee men’s program also paused team activities on Monday due to head coach Rick Barnes testing positive. The day prior, Florida announced the men’s program was pausing team activities, and Baylor announced men’s head coach Scott Drew tested positive.

The Duke men’s season opener against Gardner-Webb was postponed due to a positive test in the Gardner-Webb program. Oregon had their opener vs. Eastern Washington, but EWU didn’t have enough scholarshiped players available, so they had to cancel.

It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously sick or even dies from COVID-19 as a direct result from playing college basketball.

I could go on and on with more examples, but I think you get the point. Everything above is just within the last couple of days and solely from some of the biggest programs in the country. Let’s shift to UConn’s conference. 

Just in the Big East, the Creighton and DePaul men’s programs have paused team activities due to a positive test. Marquette had to pause both the men’s and women’s programs a month ago. The Seton Hall men’s program just returned from a shutdown of its own. As recent as Tuesday night it was announced the Xavier men’s program had to place three players into quarantine after they were deemed close contacts. 

And don’t even get me started on the fact some schools are going to allow fans in the arena to watch the games. Staying in the Big East, Butler and Xavier are the only schools planning to allow fans other than family members to attend the games. For Xavier, the number is 300. For Butler, that number is 1,500. 

We’ve seen with college football that fans can’t be trusted to maintain proper social distancing and wear their masks, and that’s in an outdoor stadium with plenty of space between the stands and the playing field. Now, the NCAA is trying to do that in indoor arenas where the fans are essentially on top of the players? It’s just a horrible idea.

The simple fact of the matter is it isn’t safe to do what the NCAA is planning on doing. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously sick or even dies from COVID-19 as a direct result from playing college basketball.

With the UConn men’s basketball team kicking off their season today, I wanted to share my thoughts because I haven’t seen many in the UConn community talking about how much of a risk this is. I know how big basketball is to UConn. UConn IS basketball. But I’ll be honest, playing basketball this year is flat out stupid.

There have been 259,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in this country, it’s ignorant to think the NCAA will be able to avoid adding to that.

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