Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches want to give all 357 Division I programs a spot in the 2021 NCAA tournament.
The coaches began to roll out their idea Wednesday, with University of Louisville coach Chris Mack tweeting that the plan resulted from meetings the ACC head coaches have had for the last 21 Wednesdays. The meetings have revolved around how best to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The safety of our players is paramount,” Mack said. “The ability to incentivize the regular season without mandating a select number of non-conference and conference games provides options and flexibility for all member institutions. As ACC head coaches, we strongly believe it’s in the game’s best interest to have an all-inclusive 2021 NCAA Tournament.”
Sources reportedly told ESPN that the ACC coaches voted Wednesday, with some coaches hoping not to play nonconference games this year and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski spearheading the push for an all-inclusive tournament.
“In the ACC, we believe in the importance of celebrating our game,” Krzyzewski said in a statement posted on Duke basketball’s Twitter account. “There is no better way to do that than involving every team in the most prestigious basketball tournament on the planet.
“This is not a regular season. It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”
Krzyzewski said that the ACC coaches considered three primary factors:
- The health and safety of our players
- The incentive that here will be games, all of which lead to the NCAA Tournament this spring
- That we need to be unified as a sport — all 357 Division-I teams — competing in the game we love
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Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes tweeted, “I am proud to stand UNITED with every head coach in the ACC in the belief that every Division I college basketball program should be allowed to participate in the NCAA Tournament this year. This is what’s best for our student-athletes, fans and the sport of college basketball. It will incentivize everyone that loves and cares about our great sport during these unprecedented times, and it will provide a safe environment for all to participate in.”
The NCAA appears as though it’s intending to move forward with the regular 68-team tournament. According to Andy Katz, NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt released a statement, saying, “Every college basketball team’s goal is to play in the NCAA tournament because everyone loves March Madness. Certainly we missed it this year and can’t wait for 2021. While all who care about the game are entitled to their opinion, and we’ll always listen respectfully, at this time we are not working on any contingency plan that involves expanding the tournament field.”
ESPN reported that the NCAA Division I Council is expected to announce formats for winter sports on Sept. 16.