COVID-19 threatens big business of NCAA college basketball
The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the billion-dollar industry of NCAA college basketball. Teams in New Jersey are already impacted even though games haven’t even started yet.
March Madness was already canceled once because of the virus. And now the NCAA says that all tournament games will be played in one city – Indianapolis. But until that tournament happens, teams around New Jersey are struggling with how to play the season.
“We’re really not in a bubble – we’re in a circle and our circle has to stay strong,” says Fairleigh Dickinson University basketball coach Greg Herenda. “We can’t go outside our circle. Thanksgiving is going to be right here at the Rothman, to be quite honest. Christmas is going to be at the Rothman.”
Herenda says that he admits that coronavirus has impacted the team in recent weeks, and the school is not alone. Seton Hall’s basketball team is on pause right now because of the virus, along with Rider University. Monmouth University just ended a quarantine. He says that he is concerned for everyone involved.
“If it ever gets to the point where it’s not safe for our young men and women to play and participate, we won’t play and participate,” Herenda says.
Indoor sports are increasingly in Gov. Phil Murphy’s crosshairs as the number of COVID-19 cases rise around the state and country.
“All year long you’re going to have to navigate COVID,” Rutgers basketball coach Steve Pikielle says.
Rutgers was pulled off the court pregame at the Big 10 Tournament in March as the virus began to spread.
“We have meetings all the time. Everything’s about COVID and protocols and water bottles to stools at the game, to testing referees,” Pikielle says.
The NCAA Tournament generates hundreds of millions of dollars from TV deals and tickets – money that trickles down to the leagues and schools. They are already feeling the pinch from the loss of revenue.
FDU was supposed to play teams like Virginia, West Virginia and VCU. For any small school games like these would typically net hundreds of thousands of dollars. But now teams are being restricted from traveling too far away.
“Everything’s tightening up,” Herenda says.
The team’s first game will be next week at Quinnipiac.
Iona College coach Rick Pitino has called on the NCAA to push back the season, saying that spikes and protocols make it impossible to play currently. Pitino says that the tournament should be pushed back to May.