How the Big East Conference is Handling Covid-19

The NCAA managed to make a season happen for college football this past fall in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This same task has been given to the organization as to how college basketball would survive as the season contains many more games and moving parts. The NCAA managed to push forward and operate an unconventional basketball season across the country. Each team and conference are abiding by their own rules and protocols, taking things day by day.

Val Ackerman, the commissioner of the Big East, discussed the plan for the season to The Daily Campus. She says, “The conference has built-in time for make-up games, but the plan is to still finish the season by early March, and our hope again is to get in that full slate of 20 conference games, and if the virus doesn’t allow for that, so be it, but that is our hope as we go into conference play.”

The conference has made their schedule leaving gaps as Ackerman stated for postponements. This approach has also led to them releasing schedules month by month in order to shift and shape the rest of the season.

The Big East conference consists of two top 25 teams at the moment, Villanova being one of them. Villanova leads the conference having gone through three separate stoppages of 14 days due to positive covid tests. They are likely to finish the season with 15 Big East games under their belt, fewer than most of their fellow teams.

The athletes get tested every day and if someone tests positive, the whole program gets shut down for 14 days. Villanova Coach Jay Wright gets a report from the assistant every morning, “She usually texts me, all negative, with smiley faces and I send back prayer signs. But if she calls me, I’m telling you my heart is pounding because that’s when she’s told me that we had a positive” (The Day).

Not only do games get postponed or cancelled with a stoppage, but players can not practice even if they did test negative. Everything goes on hold and they hope when the 14 days are up, lack of practice does not impact their game too much. Even teams who do not have a positive test could face stoppages if they recently played a team that has a player test positive. This happened to UConn after playing Butler earlier this season. UConn was extremely unhappy to have to shut down especially since it was not anyone on their team that caused the stoppage.

Butler, DePaul, Creighton, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Marquette also have had interruptions because of positive tests. Marquette’s shutdown came in October prior to the start of the regular season and Providence is the only Big East team in the clear so far.

Even a team like Providence who has managed to avoid the virus so far this season, can still feel the effects of a stoppage from other teams. Every team has been impacted by COVID-19 related postponements. Valuable practice time is lost for those teams with positive tests. Because of these stoppages a team can be out of the gym for 14 days and expected to play those games that had been postponed during the stoppage after two days of practice. These games may also be closer together with shorter rest periods in order to reach the conference target number of games and ending date.

In order to keep the flow of the games and seasons going, some coaches, like Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard, were strongly opposed to the 14-day quarantine, and said if it remains, it will be almost impossible to have a season. Wanting to avoid a stop and go season, Coach Kevin Willard was apprehensive that this basketball season would take place with possible two-week halts in any given moment during the season that is approximately 14 weeks disregarding post-season play.

As we head into March, The Big East has done its job ensuring all the teams got their chance to play as many conference games as possible. And even with three stoppages, Villanova still remains at the top of the conference as well as the AP poll. Every team had to face some challenges this season, but overall things went according to plan, everyone got their games in and now we look forward to the Big East Tournament.