NCAA pegs Nov. 25 as start date for 2020-21 college hoops season

Kansas redshirt Mitch Lightfoot, left, forward David McCormack (33) and guards Tristan Enaruna (13) and Ochai Agbaji (30) celebrate a three from Kansas guard Chris Teahan (12) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday afternoon identified Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, as the official start date for the 2020-21 college basketball season.

In addition, the Council outlined several parameters for the upcoming season, including a minimum (13) and maximum (27) number of regular season games, a recommendation of at least four nonconference games and the elimination of all exhibition games and scrimmages from the 2020-21 schedules.

“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said in a news release. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”

The total of 27 allowable games for men’s programs is down four from last year, when Bill Self’s squad went 28-3 during the regular season, and, in KU’s case, is likely to feature 24 regular games and three games from multi-team events.

The new start date is 15 days later than the previously planned season opener. The season was to open with the Champions Classic in Chicago, featuring Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, and was pushed back because of the pandemic.

Women’s programs can schedule 23 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to four games or schedule 25 regular season games if a team does not compete in a multiple-team event.

Brandon Schneider’s KU women’s team played 29 games last season, going 15-14 overall and 4-14 in Big 12 play.

Earlier this week, reports surfaced about several early-season men’s tournaments potentially being moved to Orlando, Fla., and staged in a bubble-type setting like the NBA has done for its playoffs.

Included on that list of events were the Champions Classic and Wooden Legacy tournament, which both feature KU in their fields.

As Gavitt said last week, one of the key factors in settling on Nov. 25 as the 2020-21 season start date was the fact that roughly 75% of Division I schools will be done with the fall semester by that date.

According to the Division I Men’s and Women’s Oversight Committees, having the semester behind them would create “a more controlled and less populated campus environment that may reduce the risk of COVID-19 that can occur between student-athletes and the broader student body population.”

While Nov. 25 is the first day competition can begin, not all Division I programs will play that day. Several schools, including KU, will likely need to rework their 2020-21 schedules in the coming weeks.

In addition to the Nov. 10 matchup with Kentucky in Chicago, KU was scheduled to face Southern Utah, Eastern Illinois and Stony Brook at Allen Fieldhouse all before Nov. 25. What becomes of those games remains to be seen, but all three could be victims of the 2020-21 scheduling changes.

KU had not yet announced its exhibition games for the 2020-21 season, but Washburn and Emporia State were due up in the annual rotation.

Washburn coach Brett Ballard, a former KU walk-on, told the Journal-World on Wednesday afternoon that he was not surprised by the move to eliminate preseason exhibition games from the schedule this year.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Ballard said Wednesday evening. “Our players and staff always appreciate and look forward to the opportunity to play against one of the elite college basketball programs and in the best venue in all of sports, but we understand that these are unprecedented times and the NCAA is making the best decisions they can to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

While regular NCAA rules permit teams to begin practicing 42 days before their first game, the organization is allowing Oct. 14 to be the first day of practice for all programs this year, regardless of when their first game is scheduled.

Teams can practice 30 times and up to 20 hours a week, with a maximum of four hours per day, during the 42 days between Oct. 14 and Nov. 25.

Beginning Sept. 21 and running through Oct. 13, coaches will be allowed to work with their teams for 12 hours per week during what the NCAA is calling “a transition period.”

That’s up from the current limit of eight hours per week and includes strength and conditioning activities, sport-related meetings and skill instruction, with an eight-hour limit on skill instruction.

Players must have two days off per week during the transition period.

The NCAA also extended the current recruiting dead period through Jan. 1, 2021. As a result, all in-person recruiting activities, including college campus visits by prospects and in-home visits or live evaluations by coaches, will be prohibited. Phone calls and text correspondence is allowed.

The Council has been reviewing the dead period on a regular basis since April.

In unrelated action on Wednesday, the Division I Council voted to pass newly proposed legislation, which will keep student-athletes from practicing, competing or having any other athletic responsibilities on the first Tuesday after Nov. 1 of each year.

The idea behind the new rule, which will go into effect this year, is to ensure that student-athletes across the country are free to vote and participate in community service and other civic engagement opportunities.


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