March Madness 2021: Confidence Remains High

It was a $375 million decision last March. NCAA president Mark Emmert and its Board of Governors decided to cancel the 2020 NCAA tournament. It was the first time in the history of March Madness that the event was cancelled.

Players, coaches, fans, and the NCAA do not want to see the event cancelled again in 2021. The governing body of collegiate athletics likely cannot afford another cancellation. As of the beginning of August 2020, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt says there are no plans to cancel or postpone March Madness 2021.

The Financial Reality

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said there is simply no way the NCAA can cancel the 2021 men’s tournament. The financial stability of the organization and its member conferences depends upon a March Madness next spring.

That might mean holding a tournament without fans or with limited fans. Playing without fans is fine according to Dixon who, like the NCAA, is all about safety first.

Syracuse head coach and legend Jim Boeheim said that college basketball and other sports have to find a way to continue playing despite the coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA is, of course, monitoring the NBA restart. Information gathered from how the NBA is dealing with the virus can help the NCAA hold March Madness in 2021.

Holding the annual tournament is also a must for conferences. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said his conference was set to receive roughly $24 million in NCAA distributions from March Madness. With the cancellation, the Big 12 will get about $10 million.

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The Case of College Football

Most basketball conferences are confident that a 2020-21 season will be played. They are all watching how the college football season is unfolding but realize they have a bit more time to prepare. Gavitt said that the 32 conferences are optimistic because they have some flexibility even if the coronavirus causes any postponements.

The basketball season doesn’t normally begin until November. With the Power 5 conferences announcing they will play conference-only schedules, most are planning to start in early September, which is just a month away.

There are a number of FCS conferences – the Ivy and Patriot Leagues, for example – that have already cancelled their fall seasons. With coronavirus cases rising in certain states around the country, there is still fear that the college football season could be pushed back, moved to the spring, or, even worse, cancelled.

College basketball continues to monitor what college football is doing, but the sport has the luxury of time. That luxury may give the sport what it needs to ultimately play the 2020-21 season.

The 2020-21 Season

There has been some talk about starting the college basketball season early. Doing so would allow for any interruptions in the schedule due to the virus. Starting early is not likely to happen. If anything, the season might start later.

New Iona head coach Rick Pitino said the 2020-21 season should begin in January. That would allow more time for a vaccine to be developed and “to get things under control.” Villanova’s Jay Wright echoed Pitino’ sentiment saying that the new season might not start until January.

Boeheim believes college basketball can’t wait for a vaccine. “It’s not going to be easy,” said Boeheim, “but we can’t wait for a vaccine.” There are a number of clinical trials underway, but there is no definitive time frame on when a quality vaccine would be ready.

In the meantime, the NCAA and its member conferences need to play. Most are confident that March Madness 2021 will go on as planned.



About the Author

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.

His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.

When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.