Though many in the sports world assume there will be a return to normalcy at the resumption of winter sports season, Villanova head basketball coach Jay Wright is expressing huge doubts about fans in the stands come NCAA basketball season.
With the United States still struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and positive tests/test rates increasing in many states, it’s becoming crystal clear that planning for sporting events and a return to normalcy may need to measured in years, not months. It’s one thing to return to play in empty arenas; it’s another thing to return to play with fans in the stands. And Wright brought up an uncomfortable possibility for NCAA officials planning for fall and winter: that the COVID-19 pandemic may still be prevalent come NCAA basketball season.
“I can’t see, right now, having fans (this upcoming season),” Wright said in a Zoom call with the media where sophomore forward Saddiq Bey declared for the NBA Draft. “College basketball is up in the air.”
He added that for his players and staff, playing the 2020-2021 NCAA basketball season in what would basically be a scrimmage situation wouldn’t be that undesirable an outcome, per the Villanovan:
“Players and coaches would be far less impacted than you would ever think by having fans there,” Wright said. “I mean, we love it. But no one gets to see these scrimmages we play against opposing teams with no one in the gym…The two teams are just sparring, it’s kind of cool.”
This is not the first time the idea of playing without fans has been considered. Before the college basketball season was canceled, the NCAA initially implemented the idea of playing its national tournament in March without fans in the stands of arenas for each round. At the time, Wright was in favor of the idea. Once COVID-19 reached a pandemic level and a national state of emergency was declared, the NCAA shut down the rest of its winter championships and spring seasons.
“This is a big issue in our country,” Wright said once the season was shut down in March. “It’s a serious issue. I think it’s the right thing to do.”