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ON THE SIDELINES

ON THE SIDELINES

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College basketball to start at Thanksgiving

The NCAA men's and women's basketball season will begin Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

“The fact our campuses will be clearing out, it will be possible to just further control the exposures, and the 25th gives us that opportunity,” said Division I Council chair Grace Calhoun, the athletic director at Penn.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, a Saturday. Calhoun said the council wanted to avoid a weekend start date because of potential overlaps of basketball and football games on campuses.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27.

The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14.

The council also voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports until Jan. 1. In-person recruiting is prohibited during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

Big Ten football reverses course

Players were pumped. Coaches were stoked. Fans seemed relieved. Even the president was pleased.

The Big Ten is going to give fall football a shot after all.

The conference ran a reverse Wednesday, less than five weeks after pushing fall sports to spring in the name of player safety during the pandemic, and said it plans to open its football season the weekend of Oct. 23 and 24.

“Let’s goooooo!!!” Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields tweeted.

A word of caution amid the celebration: This still is not going to be easy.

All 14 teams will be scheduled to play eight regular-season games in eight weeks, plus have the opportunity to play a ninth game Dec. 19 when the conference championship game is played. The College Football Playoff selections are scheduled for Dec. 20, which means the Big Ten's best should be back in the hunt for a national championship — if all goes well.

The schedule does not provide much room to adapt if it does not. Other conferences built in bye weeks, which allows time to deal with potential disruptions.

Thirteen games across major college football since Aug. 26 have been postponed because of teams dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. Some have not been rescheduled.

The Big Ten is banking on daily testing to mitigate the risk of outbreaks and decrease the probability that a few positive tests will gut rosters when contact tracing sends players into 14-day quarantines.

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