Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Big East Commish Val Ackerman on next season: ‘If our campuses aren’t open, we will not have athletes coming back’
By ADAM ZAGORIA
In addressing how the Big East Conference would handle the start of fall sports in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Commissioner Val Ackerman said some schools might not have fall sports.
“If our campuses aren’t open, we will not have athletes coming back,” Ackerman said Friday on a conference call. Ackerman also said she expects “staggered” starts for different schools.
The 11-member Big East Conference resides primarily in a geographic footprint that has been devastated by the pandemic. New York and New Jersey rank first and second nationally with the most cases and the most deaths, while Pennsylvania is No. 6 and Connecticut is No. 10. Nearly 80,000 Americans have died as of Friday.
The Big East does not have football, and Ackerman said the league has until “mid-summer” to make a decision about fall sports. She said it’s “certainly possible” the league might play fall sports without all 11 schools competing, and that the NCAA minimum required six schools.
“You’ve got to be ready for anything here,” she said.
Asked about a report by Brett McMurphy that college football games could be played by some schools without students on campus, Ackerman said the Big East would not do that with its fall sports.
“That does not appear to be the decision we are making in the Big East,” she said.
“The football leagues do have different pressures than we do,” she added. “They have to decide things more quickly.”
She said that if there is a “delay” to the start of the national college football season, “that will have a domino effect” on college basketball.
Some have speculated that non-conference play could be eliminated for some schools, and that teams could just begin with league play in January.
As for how the Big East basketball season, which this year will include the return of UConn, might be impacted, Ackerman is targeting a decision sometime around early September or Labor Day.
“We are proceeding right now as if it’s business as usual,” Ackerman said of basketball.
Ackerman said she fully anticipated the Big East Tournament to take place next March at Madison Square Garden.
“We are hoping the Big East Tournament next year will be as great as usual, if not more so,” she said.
She said the addition of UConn — which has won 11 NCAA titles under Geno Auriemma in women’s basketball and four under Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie in men’s basketball — would benefit the league.
“We expect nothing less than great competition from this great school,” she said.
The Big East elected to go forward with its conference tournament this past March despite the outbreak of the pandemic. It then made the decision to start the St. John’s-Creighton game on March 12 — without fans — even after the NBA canceled its season the night of March 11. The game was called at halftime and Ackerman called it a “a terrible day for us.”
The New York Times reported in a front-page story Friday that there were an estimated 10,000 cases of coronavirus in New York City as of March 1 and that 60-65 percent of all cases nationally stemmed from the city.
Ackerman said the Big East consulted the NCAA and the City of New York before starting the game on March 12, and had conference calls on the matter that morning.
“We made the best call we could’ve made,” she said.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.