One of college basketball’s most contentious coaches is speaking out on the start to the 2020-21 season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iona head coach Rick Pitino stated in a tweet Wednesday that he is suggesting to the NCAA that the season be pushed back to January, buying more time for the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine. He also wants schools to just play just conference games, which would allow for the season to end in line with the start of March. The start of the NCAA tournament wouldn’t be affected by this.
Despite him facing a Level II charge of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance at Louisville following an NCAA investigation, Pitino does make valid points that embody the least the NCAA should do to protect the health of its most-prized possession — the athletes.
While he has a rocky legacy brought about by these NCAA incidents, the statement today shows that he is putting forth an effort to put his players first.
A big obstacle even before college football season arrives will be if the NCAA will create safety and health standards for the coronavirus. Even with COVID-19 running rampant among college football players the NCAA has only issued a list of recommendations.
Right now there are COVID-19 vaccine trials taking place all over the world. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. infectious disease expert, said last month he is “cautiously optimistic” scientists can find a safe and effective vaccine by early 2021.
Vaccine or no vaccine, if the season starts in January and teams play two games as week — as they would if the season went according to plan — each program would have a 15 to 16 game season before heading into their conference tournament in late February or early March.
Pitino is not the first person in the college sports realm to speak out about the upcoming season. In an interview last month, Athletic NCAA President Mark Emmert proposed the season start earlier with fewer games.