Oregon State is battling its biggest opponent yet: COVID-19.
The Beavers men and women’s basketball programs have been forced to put their seasons on pause due to lingering coronavirus issues within the team.
Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes explained to Ron Callan on Thursday why pulling together a complete basketball season has proven to be a bigger challenge than football on the COVID-19 front.
“Our hearts go out to student-athletes, who have worked in very peculiar situations to be ready for it,” Barnes told Callan. “Basketball is fragile because of the limited roster sizes and position groups aren’t, you know football it’s a position group issue, and there’s more of them. So, one positive can turn to a shutdown, and we’ve seen that across the country. Patience, continuing to grind through this, stay in protocol.”
The Beavers women’s basketball team (1-3 Pac-12, 3-3 overall) announced Monday they will not play this week at California on Jan. 8 and at Stanford on Jan.10 due to COVID-19 testing and contact-tracing protocols within the program. This is the fourth and fifth games the Beavers have missed after announced their first in-conference postponement on Dec. 21 vs. Washington. A non-conference game vs. Carroll College was also canceled.
This week’s games at Utah on Jan. 6 and at Colorado on Jan. 9 have also been postponed for the Oregon State’s men’s basketball program (1-2 Pac-12, 5-4 overall), who announced on Tuesday it was pausing men’s basketball activities due to COVID.
Barnes said that the men’s schedule does present more flexibility than the women's for games to be rescheduled later in the season.
“We still have some real estate at the end of the season to place games that need to be made up,” Barnes said. “We’re going to run out of that real estate real soon, but I think that flexibility is key. We didn’t get it in football because of the late decision of only having the 7 weeks, but we do have the flexibility to reschedule postponed games.”
The Pac-12 could choose to create a bubble similar to what took place with the NBA and WNBA in Florida. Recently, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament announced it will hold its entire March Madness tournament in an Indianapolis “bubble.”
Barnes said Oregon State and the Pac-12 have explored the idea of condensing the season into one location with a bubble-like format, but it didn’t work out logistically.
“The Bubble concept is the term is used a lot and there’s a lot of different hybrids of that,” Barnes said. “We, in the Pac-12, have evaluated a, I’ll call a hybrid, which is really a larger or a middle pod concept of bringing teams to one marketplace. When you evaluate the pluses and minuses, the risks and rewards, it didn’t pencil out.”
While a single-location bubble is difficult to execute, it might be the only solution for teams like Oregon State to play a full season. For now, the Beavers aren’t ready to throw in the towel on the 2020-21 season just yet.
“The more we see positives and postpone them, the less games we’ll be able to make up,” Barnes said. “But at this point in time, I think we have an opportunity if everything goes well the rest of the way to make up most of all those games.”