“This new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday represents the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA senior vice president of basketball. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing toward the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”
The council, following recommendations from the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees, also voted to prohibit scrimmages and exhibition games this season and to allow preseason practices to begin Oct. 14. This move provides for a 42-day window to conduct at most 30 practices.
During this time players may work out up to 20 hours per week, four hours per day, and must take one day off.
In addition, the council approved a transition period for practice between current out-of-season activities and preseason practice. This period takes place Sept. 21 through Oct. 13, during which time teams may participate in strength and conditioning activities, meetings and skill instruction for up to 12 hours per week.
There is an eight-hour limit on skill instruction, and players must have two days off per week during the transition period.
Another change prohibits games or practices on the first Tuesday after Nov. 1 every year, including this Election Day on Nov. 3.
Pushing back the start of the season from its original Nov. 10, according to the NCAA, accommodates initial competition “when at least three-quarters of Division I institutions will have either concluded their fall terms or moved remaining instruction and exams online creating a more controlled and less populated campus environment that may reduce the risk of covid-19.”
The return of students to campus has yielded a spike in positive cases within the athletic departments at schools such as Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, each of which postponed football games recently with infections climbing among team members.
The council also modified the minimum and maximum number of games required for NCAA tournament consideration.
For the men, there are three scheduling options, including 24 regular season games and up to three games in a multi-team event (MTE) such as Thanksgiving or Christmas tournaments, or 25 regular season games and a maximum of two games in an MTE.
The third option is 25 regular season games without participating in an MTE.
On the women’s side, the scheduling options are 23 regular season games and a maximum of four games in an MTE, or 25 regular season games without an MTE.
All schools must play a minimum of 13 games against Division I opponents to be considered for the NCAA tournament.
The NCAA tournament fields will remain 68 teams for the men and 64 for the women. The Division I Council did not consider a recent proposal to expand the men’s field.
Last week, ACC men’s basketball coaches unanimously announced their support for the NCAA tournament comprising all eligible Division I teams, citing the all-inclusive model would prioritize player safety and incentivize teams with assurances games will be played.
Last season, 353 schools played Division I basketball before the NCAA tournament, along with all its winter and spring championships, was canceled.
Last season marked the first time without a men’s champion since NCAA postseason play began in 1939.
“Certainly we miss it and can’t wait for 2021,” Gavitt said last week. “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.”
It’s unclear how the Division I Council’s decision will affect several of the Power Five conferences.