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Vol. 57, No. 4 • June 2020 • .pdf version
As we prepare for '20-21 season, it's still a question of 'if'
By MALCOLM MORAN
There is so much we cannot know about the 2020-21 college basketball season. We cannot know if it will we played, when it will be played, how it will be conducted, who if anyone will be watching in person and how and when it will end. Not long before the 2020 NCAA tournament was canceled in March, but after the decision had been made to proceed without fans, I reached out to a knowledgeable observer with a simple question. Without the presence of fans, was the committee considering a smaller facility to replace Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis regional site?
Even with so many changes happening so quickly, the answer was jarring.
"It's no longer a question of where,'" the observer said. "It's a question of 'if.'"
As Indianapolis prepares for its eighth men's Final Four in April, is it possible that a similar question will become relevant?
The uncertainty surrounding the status of the upcoming season has created a sense of urgency as the USBWA examines and updates the services it provides for its membership. Policies are going to change out of necessity, and some of those changes could become dramatic. Access issues will become more complex for multiple reasons, including the possibility that some beat reporters might be unable (because of economic issues) or unwilling (because of personal health concerns) to travel to some or all road games. Virtual coverage, with post-game availability via Zoom or cellphone conversations, might become part of the necessary new normal.
Our organization will seek solutions with schools, conference offices and our friends and colleagues at the Football Writers Association of America and CoSIDA. In early March, the USBWA was represented on a conference call of media-related organizations supervised by Associated Press Sports Editors president Todd Adams of the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer. Those communications will continue throughout the summer.
One ominous possibility became clear recently when several high-profile institutions announced changes to their academic calendars including a switch to strictly remote instruction after Thanksgiving or the end of the fall semester before Thanksgiving break. As a consensus appeared to begin to develop, based on a premise that another wave of COVID-19 infections could emerge during the fall, the implications of starting a season against the backdrop of alarming statistics and overtaxed emergency rooms became problematic.
There is one thing we do know: One nonnegotiable factor will be absolute transparency in the reporting of positive test results.
The outcomes of the calculated risks taken by institutions to preserve at least part of their season will be determined by the success of the protocols in place. For a beat reporter, the immediate disclosure of a positive test is more than just an essential piece of information to inform the public about the state of the program. The information is vital because it can impact the well being of everyone around the program, including coaches, trainers and administrators that media members encounter in their daily reporting.
To be clear: This issue has absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing discussion of the timely disclosure of injury information and the availability of athletes for competition. This is vital information at the center of an ongoing global crisis. An undisclosed sprained ankle poses zero threat to anyone coming in contact with the athlete or those around him or her.
The success rate of all these calculated risks will determine the credibility of the institutions that take them. We have all learned, much too painfully, that a positive test – even if the individual is asymptomatic – can have tragic consequences.
LODGE NOTES: McNamara leaving Providence Journal
Kevin McNamara announced that he was leaving after more than 30 years at the Providence Journal, including three decades of covering the Providence Friars.
"Thank you to my bosses/comrades, plus all the coaches and athletes who've made the job (mostly) a dream come true," McNamara wrote on Twitter. "Welcome opportunity to explore different challenges, some sporting, some not."
David Teel joined the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Richmond.com as a columnist after 36 years at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.
Jody Demling, a longtime Louisville sports personality and USBWA member, spent nearly a week on a ventilator after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was hospitalized in early April and released on April 15.
Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer and Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune won first place in APSE's writing contest, DeCock for breaking news in Class B and Noie for game stories in Class C.
Bennett Durando of the University of Missouri finished in a tie for second for APSE's Student Contest. Durando, a USBWA member, also finished second in feature writing and third in breaking news for the Columbia Missourian in the Class D category. Durando is a former USBWA scholarship winner.
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