ESPN no longer planning to host college basketball events in Orlando

photo by: Associated Press

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is seen on the big screen in an empty Sprint Center as he talks to the media after canceling the remaining NCAA college basketball games in the Big 12 Conference tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

ESPN is canceling plans to host its men’s college basketball events in Orlando, the network announced Monday afternoon.

“ESPN Events set out to create a protected environment for teams to participate in early-season events in Orlando,” an official statement from ESPN read. “Based on certain challenges surrounding testing protocols, we opted to resume these tournaments during the 2021-22 season.”

ESPN had planned to move eight of its 10 nonconference events to the ESPN Wide World of Sports property at Walt Disney World in Orlando — recently used by the NBA for its bubble — including the Champions Classic, Charleston Classic, Myrtle Beach Invitational, NIT Season Tip-Off, Wooden Legacy, Orlando Invitational, Jimmy V Classic and Diamond Head Classic.

However, according to a report from’s Jeff Borzello, “the challenges around testing protocols refers primarily to re-testing players who had already previously tested positive for coronavirus and been cleared. The protocols for a player testing positive while in the Orlando bubble were another key discussion point.”

CBS Sports insider Jon Rothstein reported Monday that the schools expected to compete in Orlando would be told it was a no-go by the end of today.

And Seth Davis, of The Athletic, reported that sources had told him that ESPN called off the idea of hosting more than 20 teams and 10 events in Orlando “due to ongoing differences between the network and the participating schools regarding the health and safety protocols required for participation.”

“We’ve decided to redirect our efforts to be sure the teams have enough time to make other plans,” Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, told The Athletic. “At the end of the day our bias was toward safety and making sure that what we pulled off was in the best interests of the sport. In the absence of those things, we decided we’re better off letting schools do their own thing.”

For Kansas, that means no Wooden Legacy or Champions Classic in Orlando, but it does not necessarily mean those events will not be played.

Rothstein Tweeted early Monday afternoon that Indianapolis — one of the three cities in the Champions Classic rotation to begin with — had emerged as a front-runner to host the Kansas-Kentucky and Duke-Michigan State matchups this season.

And Overby told Davis that ESPN hoped to salvage the Champions Classic and Jimmy V Classic at other locations, though no date nor location was given.

Meanwhile, with several schools still scrambling to put together the nonconference portion of their 2020-21 schedules, the Big 12 Conference announced today that the conference schedules for the Big 12 men’s and women’s programs would be released later Monday afternoon.

KU did one better than that, releasing all but three games of its 2020-21 schedule just after 3 p.m.

Even with that, we still do not yet know when the season will actually begin. The NCAA has set Nov. 25 as the first day competition can begin, but not necessarily a day that all teams will play. That was pushed back from the original opener of Nov. 10 and dozens of programs now have less than a month to piece together a schedule of 25-27 games.

For KU, 18 of those will be conference games. And, depending on what happens with the multi-team events, KU could still have anywhere from seven to nine non conference games to get scheduled and announced.

That’s if there are nonconference games to be played. CBS Sports college basketball reporter Matt Norlander also tweeted on Monday afternoon that two power-five coaches told him today that they were predicting that college basketball goes to league-only schedules in order to get the season played.

From there, it’s entirely possible — perhaps even likely — that the 2021 NCAA Tournament is played in some kind of bubble in March.


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