photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Jeff Uveino
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The Atlantic 10 released its men’s basketball schedule on Wednesday, but league commissioner Bernadette McGlade made one thing clear: there is still uncertainty surrounding the season.
With conference play scheduled to begin at its usual time in late December, McGlade said that her staff has been continuously working on contingency plans to prepare for the winter.
“We considered punching up the schedule and going to 20 games or 22 games,” McGlade said. “We looked at bubbles, we looked at playing back-to-back at the same site… We tried to be really sensitive to the needs of our media partners and the needs of our facilities and campuses.”
McGlade said that the league had upwards of 10 potential solutions for its schedule, but decided against putting any of its teams in a bubble.
“It’s really tantilizing,” McGlade said of the possibility of an A-10 bubble. “We looked at a lot of locations, even on our own campuses. But the ability to create a bubble in the intercollegiate sense, and control everyone’s comings and goings, just didn’t seem workable as far as our collegiate model.”
McGlade said that the league appointed at COVID-19 medical advisory in May, on which each of the league’s 14 schools are represented.
The league has also been given the right, based on a vote by school athletic directors, to readjust the schedule at any time, or move games. This could potentially make the number of home and away games for each team uneven, McGlade said.
“That could include establishing a smaller pod in an area that isn’t a hotspot, or reversing the site of a game,” McGlade said.
While the league has avoided a “pod” or “bubble,” it’s not ruling out the possibility of needing to pivot to one mid-season.
McGlade also mentioned the possibility of adding more conference games if teams are unable to play the non-conference contests that they currently have scheduled. Each A-10 team has been budgeted seven non-conference games by the NCAA before league play begins.
The A-10 will have two “look-in windows” during which it will determine whether games should, and can, be added. These windows will be on Nov. 18 and Dec. 4.
“If there is a deterioration in our non-conference schedules, then we have the ability to add additional conference games if we need to at that point in time,” McGlade said. “Everyone in the league has agreed to that policy.”
McGlade said that the league has already picked potential dates on which additional games could be added.
The A-10 has also set a minimum testing standard that schools can individually decide to expand on. To meet league standards, however, players and coaches will need to be tested three times per week, and on non-consecutive days.
The number of fans that will be allowed into games will be left up to member institutions, as well, McGlade said.
“We have some institutions that, as of right now, have zero public attendance,” she said. “Others have 10% of their indoor capacity, and one or two that have 15% of indoor capacity.”
None of the league’s schools, she said, are currently set to fill 50% or more of their arenas. St. Bonaventure University announced on Wednesday that, for the time being, no fans will be permitted at home games at the Reilly Center to start the season.
SBU was picked by the press to finish fourth in the A-10 this season, behind Richmond, Saint Louis and Dayton, respectfully. McGlade said that she thought the league would be “stronger than ever” this season, and Bona head coach Mark Schmidt agreed.
“(The A-10) can compete with any league in this country,” Schmidt said. “The hope is that we can get three or four A-10 teams in the NCAA tournament.”
SBU is scheduled to begin A-10 play against Saint Louis, with a date and time to be determined, before hosting Duquesne on Dec. 30.
“I think every team in this league, other than Richmond, has a chip on their shoulder,” Schmidt said. “Nobody wants to be picked number one. At the end of the year, hopefully we’re number one.”
The Bonnies will begin non-conference play on Nov. 25 against Towson, the first of four games that they will play in a bubble at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.