NCAA

7 leaving Big East to build basketball conference

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7 leaving Big East to build basketball conference

The seven Big East schools that don't play major college football are separating from the conference many of them founded so they can build a league focused on basketball.

The presidents of the seven schools made the announcement Saturday, two days after their intentions were first reported.

``Earlier today we voted unanimously to pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established,'' a statement said. ``Under the context of conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new basketball framework that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward.''

The seven schools venturing out on their own are: Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence.

``The institutions that have been committed to men's basketball have made a decision that they are going to continue to stay committed to men's basketball,'' Marquette coach Buzz Williams said after the Warriors beat Savannah State in Milwaukee.

Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall and Providence helped form the Big East, which started playing basketball in 1979. Villanova joined in 1980, and Marquette and DePaul in 2005. The Big East began playing football in 1991.

``It's shocking,'' former Connecticut star Caron Butler said after helping the Los Angeles Clippers beat Milwaukee on Saturday night. ``The traditional Big East is just gone. As a fan of the game, I think you're going to be cheated. There are a lot of rivalries and history. Not seeing UConn and Georgetown play each other. I think you lose fans with that.''

The basketball schools gave no details about their plans, such as when they want to depart and whether they will attempt to keep the name Big East.

``St. John's would love to keep the Big East name,'' said the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, the president of St. John's, who emphasized he was speaking only for his school. ``I would like to hear what the football schools think and then try to make a compromise.''

Big East bylaws require departing members give the conference 27 months' notice, but the league has negotiated early departures with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia over the past year. Those schools all had to pay exit fees. Big East rules do allow schools to leave as a group without being obligated to pay exit fees.

``I think what the statement basically says is within the structure of the Big East conference we have the opportunity as a group to exercise a right to, in an orderly fashion, separate from the conference,'' Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said after the Hoyas played in Washington. ``The details of all the questions that you're thinking about, those things have been considered, but now is certainly not the time to discuss those in a public setting.''

There also are millions of dollars in NCAA basketball tournament money and exit fees collected recently that will need to be divvied up.

The latest hit to the Big East leaves Connecticut, also a founding member, Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida - the four current members with FBS football programs - as the only schools currently in the Big East that are scheduled to be there beyond the 2013-14 school year.

``The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the Big East,'' Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. ``The membership recognizes their contributions over the long distinguished history of the Big East. The 13 members of the conference are confident and united regarding our collective future.''

The Big East is still lined up to have a 12-team football conference next season with six new members, including Boise State and San Diego State for football only. Rutgers and Louisville, which both announced intentions to leave the Big East last month, are scheduled to compete in the conference next year.

Notre Dame, which is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference, also is expected to continue competing in the Big East next season in all sports but football and hockey.

Also joining the Big East next season are Memphis, Central Florida, Houston and SMU for all sports.

As for the departing seven, there has already been speculation they will try to align with other Catholic schools that have strong basketball programs, such as Xavier, Dayton, Creighton or even Gonzaga, which is located in Spokane, Wash.

``There's no target number (of members),'' Reed said. ``I think it would be safe to say that at the right time, at the proper time, that those things will be discussed and dealt with.''

As for the schools such as Cincinnati and Connecticut, which has been trying to get out of the Big East but have nowhere to go, they are trying to stay positive.

``We will work diligently to position (Cincinnati) in the most favorable light moving forward,'' Cincinnati AD Whit Babcock said. ``We will continue to compete and win.''

Aresco was hired during the summer after a long career as a television executive, and given the task of trying to bring stability to the Big East and help negotiate a new lucrative television contract that could keep the league viable in the long run.

Since being hired, 10 more schools have announced they are leaving the conference and television negotiations had to be put on hold after Louisville and Rutgers said they were leaving.

The Big East moved quickly to replace Rutgers and Louisville with Tulane (all sports) and East Carolina (football only), starting in 2014. The latest moves seem to have been the last straw for the basketball schools.

``We believe at St. John's it is important we shape our future rather than have it happen to us,'' Harrington said. ``We believe we will be in a stronger position to compete and that's so important for ours student-athletes and the institution.''

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AP College Basketball Writer Jim O'Connell in New York, AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Washington and AP freelance writer Dave Boehler in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

NCAA president Mark Emmert says fall champions can't happen at this time

NCAA president Mark Emmert says fall champions can't happen at this time

While conferences and schools across the nation are withdrawing from the 2020 fall sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic, others remain adamant that games and seasons can be played.

However, for those who are planning on having a fall campaign, their hopes of competing for a championship could still be derailed. According to NCAA president Mark Emmert, all Division I sports besides football --- which operates on the bowl schedule -- are in jeopardy of losing a title season due to the lack of teams involved.

“We cannot, now at this point, have fall NCAA Championships because there’s not enough schools participating," Emmert said during the NCAA Social Series on Thursday. "The Board of Governors also said, ‘look if you don’t have half the schools playing the sport you can’t have a legitimate championship.’”

Emmert noted that the fall can still be beneficial to universities as programs can put all their focus into safety protocols and maintaining the health of players. Additionally, players can still remain on campus and prepare for the spring season.

As for actual competition in the coming months, Emmert has begun to look ahead to 2021 with the hope that teams have the opportunity to compete when the spring comes around. Specifically, he wants to make sure that winter and spring sports -- who already lost a season in 2020 -- are not forced to suffer through the same fate again.

In order to do that, he's considering numerous altercations to sports such as modified bubbles and smaller brackets for postseason play. The procedures will become clearer in the coming months as more questions about the virus and its impact are answered.

For now, Emmert is optimistic that the NCAA has the capability to bring sports back in a safe way. But to do so, a lot of work still needs to be done.

“There’s a way to do it. Will it be normal? Of course not, you’ll be playing fall sports in the spring. Will it create other challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah, it is doable and we want to do that," Emmert said. "We want to, again, make it work for these students.”

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Will there be high school sports in the DMV this fall amid coronavirus concerns?

Will there be high school sports in the DMV this fall amid coronavirus concerns?

No area of society has gone untouched by the novel coronavirus pandemic, including sports. After every level of athletics was rocked by the virus and forced to shut down in the spring, professional leagues have figured out ways to return to their fields of play in as safe a manner as possible. Meanwhile, decisions are still being made on the collegiate, high school and youth levels about when and how sports will return.

In our Playing Through COVID series, NBC Sports Washington will tell the story of those decisions and how they impact the people involved, including athletes, coaches, parents and more. The series launched with an interview of Dr. Sunil Budhrani, ER Physician, CEO and Chief Medical Officer at Innovation Health. Watch the full interview here.

As the 2020-21 school year approaches in the DMV, answers of whether sports will accompany it in the fall have slowly trickled in.

And thus far, the answer is overwhelmingly no. 

Washington, D.C. and Virginia have both announced plans to adopt a Condensed Interscholastic Plan, which would push the start of winter sports back to a tentative Dec. 14 start date and have what are traditionally fall sports follow in February. Maryland announced plans to postpone fall and winter sports during the first semester, which ends Jan. 27.

Current calendar plans announced for the resumption of sports are listed below:

DC

Winter season (basketball, indoor track and field, cheerleading)

First practice date: December 14 -- Game dates: January 4 to February 28 

Fall season (cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball)

First practice date: February 1 -- Game dates: February 22 to April 16 

Spring season (baseball, softball, tennis, track and field, ultimate disc, chess)

First practice date: March 29 -- Game dates: April 19 to June 13

Virginia

Winter season (basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim/dive, wrestling)

First practice date: December 14 -- Game dates: December 28 to February 20

Fall season (cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, volleyball)

First practice date: February 15 -- Game dates: March 1 to May 1

Spring season (baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field)

First practice date: April 12 -- Game dates: April 26 to June 26

Maryland

TBD

Present in each region's announcement of a postponement was mention of a collaboration with local health officials in determining those plans. District of Columbia State Athletic Association executive director Clark Ray reiterated that point on a town hall hosted by NBC Sports Washington’s Chad Ricardo on July 17.

“Based on the information that we had, based on our conversations with our department of health, and based on input from the public schools, the public charter schools, the private schools and all of those who represent the multiple conferences of our private schools, this was an easy decision to make but an agonizing decision to send out,” Ray said. “It’s the right decision at this time based on the current science and data that we have.”

Virginia High School League executive director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun echoed how difficult the decision was during a virtual press conference on July 27, though Virginia’s plan left open the possibility for sports to return sooner than outlined if the state moves beyond Phase III in its recovery plan. Or if guidelines for Phase III are revised to allow high-risk activities.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision,” Haun said. “All of you know how important high school activities are to our student athletes, to our coaches, to our parents, just our school communities. This was not a decision that was made lightly. Everybody took this very seriously. I think it’s safe to say in our office and probably with the executive committee, there have been very few of us that have had a full nights’ sleep in a long time just thinking about all the implications here that are involved.”

RELATED: A DOCTOR'S EXPLANATION OF WHY EFFECTS OF MYOCARDITIS ARE DANGEROUS FOR ATHLETES

Those same implications are part of the reason why decisions on fall sports were delayed until recently across the state of Maryland.

Rather than enforce a statewide decision on athletics, Maryland initially left the decision on how to proceed this fall to each individual school system, of which there are 24. The state set a minimum set of guidelines, but each local system had the authority to be more restrictive based on local circumstances in regards to the virus. It’s a path that left many in limbo but that Maryland governor Larry Hogan said was consistent with how the state made other decisions.

“The state sets some parameters, but people were not wanting us to interfere with those local decisions,” Hogan said at his press conference on Maryland’s COVID-19 recovery July 22. “County governments have always had their individual authorities to make decisions that are more restrictive than what we’ve done, not less restrictive. They can’t ignore state law. But our plans always incorporated the flexibility of local governments.”

That autonomy resulted in varying decisions across Maryland’s local school systems. While most never announced a decision before Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Assoication finally made an overarching decision last Monday, others had postponed fall sports, and Montgomery County canceled fall and winter sports altogether. The variation in decisons wasn't much different than the current NCAA football scene where some conferences have already postponed sports, while others are holding out hope for a season.

Montgomery County superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith said the decision to cancel was devastating.

“It’s not just sports programs. It’s all of our extracurricular and cocurricular programs that are so important to our students,” Smith said on a virtual recovery plan media briefing July 22. “And we understand that this is devastating, and we’re gonna continue to look at how we can support students through the digital world or whatever other strategies that people may be able to come up with. I’ve seen some examples of this that are really tremendous, and we’re going to continue to push hard to make sure that we can do whatever we can do in this very important part of a student’s educational experience.”

Montgomery's decision at the time likely spoke to a larger concern in coronavirus trends cited by Hogan. While Montgomery’s positivity rate was down 90% from a high of 32.64% on April 20 to 3.27%, Hogan said there was concern that the positivity rate for Marylanders under 35 years (6.57%) old was higher than it was for those 35 or older (3.50%). And while it has dropped significantly since peaking, it has recently seen a slight uptick. Additionally, there had been a slight uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state and, according to Hogan, some of those were younger patients.

These were the types of numbers being considered across D.C., Maryland and Virginia when deciding whether schools should move to a virtual-only format this fall. Most have decided they will, but some will open at full capacity, while others are going with a hybrid approach. Those decisions had a direct influence on what local jurisdictions decided in regards to how to proceed with sports. MPSSAA cited as much in its announcement to postpone sports.

"This decision comes in light of the recent announcements of local school systems to begin education virtually and provides each school system with options for the gradual increase of student engagement for the physical and social-emotional health of students," the statement read.

MPSSAA said it's finalizing plans for modified competition seasons for all sports in the second semester and will make those plans available at some point prior to the start of the school year, which is Aug. 31.

Private schools in the region aren’t beholden to the same rules enforced by the public governing bodies, but many of them are going in the same direction.

The Interstate Athletic Conference, Independent School League and Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference all announced the postponement of sports until January. The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference said it is canceling fall athletics but exploring scheduling options for a January start.

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