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Volume 27 No. 84

SBJ College: Basketball Chaos

SBJ College will take the day off on Thanksgiving and return Dec. 1. Hope everyone enjoys Turkey Day and stays safe this week.

Here’s what is cooking on campus.

College Basketball Enters Season Against Headwinds

Stephen F. Austin left its Texas home yesterday thinking that they would be opening the season tomorrow against Rhode Island at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. By the end of the day, the schedule had changed and they were going to be matched up with San Francisco. Army had been added, giving the Lumberjacks three solid games to start the season. By this morning, everything had changed and SFA was making preparations to return to Texas this afternoon because a member of the support staff had tested positive for COVID.

Welcome to the 2020-21 college basketball season, otherwise known as chaos. More than 20 games scheduled to open the season tomorrow were postponed or canceled, and those were just the ones we knew of this afternoon. There certainly are going to be more. Teams were learning within 24 hours of their game that their opponent had changed at events being played around the country because of COVID infections.

Stephen F. Austin, the giant killer that won at Duke last season, was still working on a plan to get a flight home as of this afternoon. The trip to Connecticut cost them thousands of dollars -- they had not begun to add everything up yet -- and they were going home with the same record they had when they arrived at the Mohegan Sun.

Reaction from across college basketball was damning, even as event promoters frantically tried to arrange and rearrange schedules. “It’s going to be a nightmare,” Iona coach Rick Pitino told Yahoo Sports. “They’re just trying to rush it to get to March, and it’s not worth risking everyone’s health.” Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel wrote, "College basketball is crumbling in front of us because of greed, competing agendas and a lack of leadership."

Bottom line: No one knows what to expect over the next few days.

Playfly Sports Brings On Gene DeFilippo

Playfly Sports continues to build its connections and expertise in the college space by bringing on Gene DeFilippo, a former AD at Boston College and most recently a search firm executive at Turnkey. DeFilippo will retain his role at Turnkey, where he is assisting the ACC with its search for a commissioner, while adding new responsibilities at Playfly.

DeFilippo will serve as an executive market strategist at Playfly, where he’ll work closely with company president David Johnston and Senior VP Bill Cartwright on a growth strategy in collegiate multimedia rights. Playfly, through its acquisition of Outfront Media Sports, owns the multimedia rights to 11 schools. Playfly CEO Mike Schreiber said DeFilippo’s wealth of contacts and experience will provide the company a boost in its attempts to add more school rights.

A Bowl Season Like No Other

The bowl season is less than a month away and 36 games remain committed to hosting their event. But as Bowl Season Executive Director Nick Carparelli told me today, it’s not going to be a normal postseason. “We’re prepared to be as flexible as possible as we get into bowl season,” Carparelli said. “In a season when most teams have practiced less and played fewer games, they’re excited about the chance to play one more.”

A couple of the ways this Bowl Season will be different than others:

  • Teams will not be required to have six wins in order to participate in a bowl game. That rule is waived for this season.

  • Instead of spending five or six days at the bowl site, teams instead will arrive two days before the game, which will make it more similar to a standard road game, as a means of cutting costs.

  • The selection process also will take on a different look. In the past, bowl selections were made on a Selection Sunday-type show after the CFP games were announced. This season, selections will start earlier, the week before conference championship games on Dec. 19, and be staggered throughout the week.

  • Teams will follow the same health and safety protocols and testing procedures that they have all season.

What are the chances of a team getting to the bowl site, only to have a COVID infection disrupt the game? Carparelli laughed and said, “This is one year that you’d never say never.”

SBJ Reader Survey: SEC's Sankey Most Effective

Two of the biggest sports business stories of the year were the loss of March Madness and the cancellation of fall sports, followed by the reinstatement of football, according to SBJ’s reader survey in this week’s issue.

The cancellation on the NCAA tournament ranked sixth among the biggest stories of the year, followed by fall sports in seventh, based on responses from 1,500 SBJ readers. The top sports business story was sporting events with no fans.

The SEC’s Greg Sankey was voted the most effective college commissioner, receiving 37% of the votes, followed by the ACC’s John Swofford at 20% and the Big East’s Val Ackerman at 15%. The NCAA ranked high in one dubious category -- it was second among properties that were least effective at responding to the pandemic, just behind MLB.

The postponed/canceled sporting event that our voters missed the most in 2020 were the NCAA basketball tournaments, ahead of the Olympics and the Masters. I’d agree with that.

Speed Reads

  • ESPN's Andrea Adelson & David M. Hale go deep on the Clemson-Florida State postponement, which has "produced a very public spat between" the two schools. ESPN: "Now, the battle is being fought publicly, players are frustrated and two programs already muddling through a murky financial picture during the pandemic are on the hook for significant expenditures and revenue losses. Along with the public sparring, there have been questions -- around the protocols for both programs and how the conference let it get to this point."

  • SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey this week on "The Paul Finebaum Show" addressed the conference's financial ramifications from this challenging season. Sankey: "We reduced our regular-season football schedule by 20% ... but those are typically home games. ... Then we’ve had between no crowds in some circumstances to 25% of a full stadium. That's a substantial impact."

  • The Big Sky Conference has launched "Big Sky U,” a professional development initiative for athletes, coaches and aspiring coaches, and administrators. The conference believes it is a first-of-its-kind curriculum for future leaders in athletics with a focus on career advancement for under-represented groups.