Canceling March Madness cost the NCAA about $375 million this year, according to reports.
Because of that huge financial loss, there’s no way the NCAA can afford to cancel the NCAA Tournament in 2021, says Texas Christian head men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon.
“The NCAA is going to find a way to have the Tournament safely but they’re prepared to adapt the schedule to do it,” Dixon, the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said Wednesday by phone. “They’re never going to run a tournament that’s not safe.”
That could mean holding the event with no fans, or limited fans, if necessary, Dixon said.
“They’re not reckless, but they still want to survive at the same time,” he said of the NCAA. “So safety first.
“I have no doubt that the NCAA will come up with the safest option for what so many want — a 2021 NCAA tournament. The NCAA and conferences and schools rely on the money from the NCAA Tournament.”
For what it’s worth, the 2021 Final Four is slated for Indianapolis. This year’s Final Four was slated for Atlanta, but the NCAA canceled the whole tournament on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re going to take some hits there,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12 Conference said March 12 on a teleconference. Bowlsby said the Big 12 was set to receive $24 million from NCAA distributions but will now receive about $10 million.
Already this year the NCAA has extended the recruiting dead period through August due to the pandemic, and Dixon said it’s likely to be extended through September as well. College basketball is due to start in November.
Dixon said he’s confident the college basketball season will take place, but admits it could happen without fans, or with restrictions on fans.
“Yes, I do,” he said. “I don’t know in what form but there will be.”
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who turns 76 in November, said Tuesday on ESPN that college basketball — and other sports — have to find a way to work despite the pandemic.
“I think this is going to work,” Boeheim said. “I know it doesn’t look great in the country, but I think we’re going to get through this. I think we’re going to get football back. I hope the NBA gets back, baseball. We’re going to have to make adjustments, there’s going to have to be things done but…we need to go back to school with all of our kids, from grade school on up. And we need to find a way to make that work. And I think we need to find a way to make basketball and sports work.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. had more than 3 million cases of COVID-19, with nearly 132,000 deaths, about 25 percent of the world’s deaths.
Several major sports, including the NBA and Major League Baseball are due to restart or start later this month. College basketball will have the luxury of seeing how it goes in those sports, as well as with the NFL and college football later this summer.
Rick Pitino, the Iona head coach, recently Tweeted that college basketball should begin in January so as to allow “more time for a vaccine and to get things under control.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright, who has won two of the last four NCAA titles, also said college basketball might not begin until January — at least.
“It’s not going to be easy, but we can’t wait for a vaccine,” Boeheim said. “Vaccines could be this year, next year, it could be two years before one really works. So we’ve got to try to make adjustments.
“I think [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver said it best. We have to battle through this, we can’t just wait. So I’m optimistic, I can’t wait to get in the gym.”