EVANSVILLE — College sports are slowly but surely progressing ahead.
After the Big Ten Conference decided Wednesday morning it will indeed play football this fall, the NCAA announced later in the afternoon there will not be much of a delay to the start of basketball season.
The NCAA Division I council has elected to move the start date from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.
This change will affect at least four games for the University of Evansville, which was set to open at Purdue on Nov. 10 and travel to Ball State on Nov. 14 before hosting Southeast Missouri on Nov. 18 and Belmont on Nov. 21.
The Aces released their non-conference schedule last month, but only 20 of the 357 D-I programs had done so by Wednesday.
Purdue was supposed to pay UE $85,000 just for showing up, according to a game contract obtained through a public records request. Surely, if the contest isn’t rescheduled, that will be a knock to the Aces’ athletics budget this winter.
It remains to be determined if UE will participate in the Dana Point Challenge from Nov. 26-28 over Thanksgiving weekend. The field for that tournament still has not been revealed and other details are scarce, so it might ultimately be canceled. Many other in-season tournaments have already been relocated in lieu of creating a bubble-like atmosphere.
Simply, there’s no definitive answer yet as to when UE will tip off the 2020-21 campaign. There will not be any exhibitions, but full-blown practices can start 42 days prior to the first contest (no earlier than Oct. 14).
The Aces’ schedule, for now, includes six games in December: at Tennessee-Martin (Dec. 2), at Southern Methodist (Dec. 5), three straight at home versus Eastern Illinois (Dec. 9), IUPUI (Dec. 12), Tennessee Tech (Dec. 19), and then at Belmont (Dec. 21).
Of course, the entire slate could change depending on whether the Missouri Valley Conference decides to start league play before it traditionally does around the New Year. The Valley is expected to announce its schedule next week.
Perhaps it will make the most sense to play as many games as possible in December and January when students are at home. By Thanksgiving, 76 percent of students across the country will be off-campus, per NCAA research.
The NCAA announced a handful of other changes, too:
- Teams can practice for 12 hours per week (eight hours on-court) starting Sept. 21.
- The maximum number of regular-season contests is now 27, a four-game reduction. Teams must play at least 13 to be eligible for the postseason.
- There will be no in-person recruiting visits until Jan. 1.
Nevertheless, college basketball has a start date after the coronavirus pandemic six months ago forced March Madness to shut down. The Aces should be eager for a chance to finally notch their first win of the calendar year as they prepare for their first full season under coach Todd Lickliter.
Further specifics and readjustments should be coming in the near future.