The NCAA Division I Council met Wednesday and announced Nov. 25 as a new start date for the 2020-21 college basketball season.
The original NCAA calendar set Nov. 10 as the opening day for Division I college hoops and James Madison had already announced non-conference schedules for both its men’s and women’s teams featuring multiple games prior to Nov. 25.
Included in that list were games against Virginia at the new Atlantic Union Bank Center for both the Dukes men’s and women’s programs.The JMU men were also scheduled to visit Georgia Tech and the women scheduled to play Villanova at home.
“Based upon the dates announced by the NCAA, there is an impact to our basketball seasons and our inaugural season in the Atlantic Union Bank Center,” the JMU athletic department said in a statement released Wednesday night. “Rest assured that the facility remains on target for a November opening, and we are still anticipating home competition in that venue this season. We will have additional communication directly to season ticket holders regarding the impact of the NCAA’s date change.”
Plenty of questions still remain even with a solid start date in place. It’s not yet clear if JMU will play a typical schedule with home and away games or if any fans will be allowed in the arenas.
Both JMU athletics director Jeff Bourne and Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Joe D’Antonio recently told the Daily News-Record the conference is considering options that might allow it to play games in a so-called bubble similar to what the NBA, WNBA and NHL have used to successfully play their seasons.
Delaying the season by two weeks until the day before Thanksgiving might provide a safer atmosphere in many cases.
Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s vice president in charge of basketball, said 76 percent of campuses will have either finished the semester or ended in-person classes by that point with much of the student body returning home.
“I don’t know what a major difference delaying by two weeks will make, but I do know the big reason for doing it was that around Thanksgiving all the students will be home,” JMU coach Mark Byington said. “I think we are just kind of excited we have a date and can move forward. We’re going to have to gather information quickly and get our schedule together because we are not far away.”
The Division I Council decided on other changes for the upcoming season. Teams will be allowed to play a maximum of 27 games, four fewer than previously allowed. Programs must play a minimum of 13 games to become eligible for the NCAA Tournament and the Council recommended that include at least four non-conference contests.
Exhibition games and closed scrimmages were also eliminated and the NCAA also instituted a policy that all Division I athletes will have the day off for Election Day in November.
Teams may begin limited practices Sept. 21 with the NCAA allowing 12 hours of work per week with a maximum of eight on the court. Full practice schedules may begin Oct. 14.