NCAA

Atlantic 10 to condense 2020-21 schedule for seven sports to minimize travel during coronavirus

Atlantic 10 to condense 2020-21 schedule for seven sports to minimize travel during coronavirus

The Atlantic 10 conference announced some minor changes to its 2020-21 sports calendar due to ongoing developments from the coronavirus. 

Seven sports - field hockey, volleyball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse - will see their conference seasons regionalized and condensed by 25%. For volleyball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse, those conference championship fields will be reduced to four teams. Field hockey already had a four-team championship set.

The changes will only affect the upcoming 2020-21 seasons, assuming it is safe to hold collegiate competitions.

The conference hopes that college communities can return to campus upon certain protocols so sports can be held. It is open to make changes as needed and reevaluate if the situation changes.

"The decisions made, including revisions to our conference schedules, championship formats, policies and procedures were extremely difficult. However, each was considered and discussed with empathy, in consideration of the health, welfare and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, support staff and overall athletic programs,” A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said in a release.

"The hope is that there will be a return to campus and classes with the ability to implement the necessary COVID-19 protocols for the fall semester. Should this not occur, the conference is prepared to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate with medical professionals all decisions in the best interests of our student-athletes and programs."

These measures are being made to minimize travel and reduce costs to the schools in an uncertain financial time. The Atlantic 10 is one of the widest mid-major conferences in the country that stretches from Kingston, Rhode Island to Davidson, North Carolina to Saint Louis, Missouri.

A majority of schools are located in the Northeast and are driving distance from one another. Duquense (Pittsburgh), St. Bonaventure (Western New York), Dayton, Davidson and Saint Louis are typically not within driving distances for most schools. 

Programs within the Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland region consist of George Mason, George Washington, Richmond and VCU.

No changes were announced for the men's and women's basketball seasons, which are the largest sports within the conference. The schedule pairings for those sports will be announced later this week and are expected to be heavily focused on regional matchups. 

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How Lamelo Ball playing in Australia factored into 5-star recruit Makur Maker’s decision to choose Howard

How Lamelo Ball playing in Australia factored into 5-star recruit Makur Maker’s decision to choose Howard

When 2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker committed to Howard University in D.C., he sent shockwaves through the entire landscape of the basketball world, becoming the first top recruit to announce his intent to play at a historically Black college or university (HBCU) since Earl Jones played for the University of the District of Columbia in 1980.

While the decision was intricate and monumental on a multitude of levels, Maker revealed an interesting layer of his decision-making process:

He thought of future NBA lottery pick LaMelo Ball.

"I figured if LaMelo Ball could go to Australia, play in facilities like that, and still be considered a top NBA prospect, why not Howard?" Maker said.

Ball's path to the draft very well may be one of the most remarkable in sports history. Fast-forwarding to his final season at SPIRE, Ball was not eligible to attend college, therefore he agreed to a deal with the Illawarra Hawks in Australia to play in the NBL. 

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The decision was heavily scrutinized nationally with many believing it would drastically decrease his draft stock -- one disclosed scout told USA Today “the untraditional route (NBL) will almost certainly cost him (LaMelo) once draft night approaches."

After averaging 17.0 points, 6.8 assists, and 7.4 rebounds in the NBL and having his season cut short due to a bone bruise in his left foot, Ball is in the conversation to go the number one overall in the upcoming draft.

Point made. 

"People also sleep on the competitive nature of the MEAC [Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference]," Maker said. "The pace and open flow style of play of the MEAC is more similar to the NBA, in my opinion. It’s a read-and-react league, so it will definitely help me get ready for the NBA."

Former head coach and NBC Sports Washington basketball analyst Jimmy Patsos, believes in Makers' decision and thinks it could spark a huge movement within college basketball. 

"If one person can lead a revolution, one person can lead a movement, this could be the guy," Patsos said on Friday. "Why not him changing the landscape of college basketball?"

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Big Ten to have a conference-only schedule for all fall sports if played

Big Ten to have a conference-only schedule for all fall sports if played

The Big Ten Conference announced that the league will only play in-conference matchups for the fall 2020 season if games are able to be held. 

The news was first reported by The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach and then confirmed by other outlets.

While this is a gigantic step for the conference as they navigate the coronavirus pandemic, this is most noteworthy to college football. 

Typically, the Big Ten holds nine in-conference contests for each school out of a 13-game schedule. It is unclear if the league will expand its conference schedule to accommodate or continue with nine games. ESPN is reporting that many schools would like a 10-game schedule. 

It is also possible the league will move around current schedules to prepare for potential interruptions, according to ESPN's Adam Rittenburg.

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Removing those nonconference games will limit the student-athletes chance at exposure to the virus. There will be less travel, less hotel stays and fewer individuals that could create a mass-spread of the virus. 

However, with no out-of-conference contests for the upcoming season, the league will not be able to elevate itself as a whole across the college football landscape. It will cancel marquee matchups such as Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, Ohio State at Oregon, Penn State at Virginia Tech and Miami at Michigan State.

For the Maryland Terrapins, they lose a big road contest with West Virginia. Additionally, they had home games scheduled against Towson and Northern Illinois.

As one of the biggest leagues in the country (14 teams), the Big Ten does have the flexibility to expand its schedule with each team playing a full season. However, it could drastically affect how the league is perceived in the scope of the College Football Playoff, especially if other leagues do not follow suit. A one or two-loss league champion does not have any national measuring sticks.

The Big Ten has had a team in the Playoff four of the seven seasons it has been in effect. 

This decision comes on the heels of the Ivy League canceling all of their fall sports for the upcoming semester. The Ivy was the first league across the country to make a move so drastic. It should be noted that the Ivy was also the first league to cancel all spring sports at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This move does not guarantee that the Big Ten will still have football games this fall. It merely serves as a simpler attempt to safely have a season. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren isn't even convinced there will be a season. 

The conference also will allow student-athletes to choose not to play for the 2020-21 academic year to maintain their scholarship.

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