As basketball season is set to tip off this week, it's clear the sport isn't immune to the type of COVID struggles that have plagued fall sports..
Cancellations and postponements have popped up across the United States as the season is set to start Wednesday.
The most drastic move came from Florida A&M University. After holding preseason practices with a limited number of players, the FAMU women’s basketball team has decided not to participate in the 2020-21 season due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We are very disappointed but obviously we are taking concerns and circumstances within the women's basketball program and COVID-19 very seriously. Student-athletes' health and safety is and will remain our top priority," FAMU vice president and director of athletics Kortne Gosha said in Monday’s press release, which noted that none of the Rattlers will lose eligibility this year. "The department of athletics and the University are committed to adhering to all COVID-19 protocols and making sure we keep every Rattler student-athlete safe.
"We will continue to support our student-athletes as the navigate these difficult times. We apologize to our scheduled opponents, as we know this will present scheduling challenges. However, we must keep student-athlete safety as our number one priority."
The Rattlers made the call right before the season was set to begin with a Wednesday home game against Florida State. The Rattlers’ 19-game schedule was lighter than usual, as their second game wasn’t supposed to be until they hosted the University of North Florida on Dec. 19. The Rattlers went 6-21 last season, including 4-12 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
"I'm disappointed for my two seniors and the young ladies who have worked very hard to get to this point; however, the safety and health of our student-athletes is our top priority,” women’s basketball head coach Shalon Pillow said. “Although this was a tough decision, we will continue to support our young ladies during this time."
While FAMU pulled the plug on the entire season, several programs have pushed back their start date. Ole Miss men's basketball canceled four games and suspended all team activities until Dec. 7 due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program, while UConn women's basketball canceled or postponed four games and suspended team activities for at least 14 days after a member of the program tested positive for coronavirus.
The Duke men's basketball team's season opener is also off. Duke's release said Wednesday's game against Gardner-Webb was postponed Monday after consultation with the athletic department's medical personnel, as there was a positive test within the Gardner-Webb program.
According to CBS Sports, the second-ranked Baylor men's basketball team withdrew from this week's 2K Empire Classic at the Mohegan Sun after head coach Scott Drew tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. The Bears were scheduled to play a semifinal game against No. 18 Arizona State on Wednesday. Rhode Island is replacing Baylor in the two-day tournament.
The Tennessee men's basketball team has also paused all activities after head coach Rick Barnes was one of multiple positive tests within the program. Stadium's Jeff Goodman also reported Monday that a positive test within Northern Arizona's program has postponed Wednesday's game against Arizona.