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Volume 27 No. 84

SBJ Unpacks: College Hoops Hitting Road Bumps Ahead Of Tipoff

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: College basketball continues to deal with COVID complications before the season tips off on Wednesday night.

  • How Korean baseball coverage helped ESPN's remote productions.
  • MLB looks to 2021 for its Field of Dreams.
  • Clemson, Dabo Swinney still heated after FSU cancellation.
  • After Kim Ng, who will be next?
  • Why the NBA faces an even bigger hurdle for upcoming season.

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COVID Complications Hitting College Basketball Hard

The past 24 hours has put a damper on the start of the college basketball season, with a flurry of postponements, cancellations and positive COVID tests ahead of the action beginning on Wednesday.

CBS Sports' Kyle Boone breaks down the latest developments, with Duke being the "most notable team directly affected this week," after opting to postpone its opener against Gardner-Webb, which had a positive COVID-19 test within its program. Elsewhere, preseason No. 2 Baylor is now "out of the loaded field of the Empire Classic this week at Mohegan Sun," after coach Scott Drew tested positive.

In the SEC, Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee have all paused team activities and cancelled their respective openers, due to COVID precautions. ESPN's Jeff Borzello notes Volunteers coach Rick Barnes has tested positive and Tennessee is one of four teams in the Jimmy V Classic, set to face No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 2 in Indianapolis. The school said participation in that event hasn't been ruled out yet.

Korean Baseball Coverage Helps ESPN Hone Remote Workflow

ESPN's coverage of the Korea Baseball Organization's 2020 season is wrapping up this week as the league's championship series heads to a Game 6 tomorrow at 4:30am ET. ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Phil Orlins said the most important part of KBO productions was the Zoom feed that helped create a "home-broadcast video workflow.” Orlins told SBJ's Andrew Levin that was “fundamental” because it gave producers and broadcasters the ability to work and communicate in real-time.

Orlins explained how the establishment of that workflow has benefitted ESPN’s other productions. He said, “We can put, and we did, any and every guest we want to put on from anywhere with no more complexity than a phone number and a facetime call-in to our transmission hub in Bristol.” Orlins added, “There’s no limitations to how we can put people on.”

ESPN’s deal with the KBO extends just this season. On the prospect of ESPN continuing its coverage in future seasons, Orlins said, “There are no guarantees here, but the fact that it’s in that unusual time slot where we don’t normally have live sports gives us an opening to do something a little different.”

For more insights and stories regarding ESPN’s KBO coverage, check out today’s episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead.”

MLB's Field Of Dreams Game A Go For 2021 In Iowa

MLB today rolled out tentative plans for its delayed Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, featuring White Sox-Yankees and presented by Geico. The game is set for Thursday, Aug. 12, airing nationally on Fox.

Plans will remain contingent on the status of public health next summer, and the feasibility of ticket availability will be evaluated in the months ahead. MLB built a temporary ballpark adjacent to the movie site, with a potential capacity of up to 8,000 fans. The inaugural Field of Dreams event was originally set for this August, but postponed due to COVID.

CBS Sports notes the White Sox are "prominently featured in the film" and MLB wanted the Yankees "in a nationally televised event." The Cardinals were "slated to replace the Yankees under regional play before the game was canceled."

Clemson Sticking With Gameday Covid Protocol

Clemson will not change its COVID safety procedures after Saturday’s scheduled game against Florida State was canceled three hours before kickoff “because the Tigers don’t believe they did anything wrong,” per the Greenville News. Clemson believes that it “followed ACC protocol, and the league agreed,” but FSU “would not play because a player who tested positive was on the travel party.”

Dabo Swinney went as far as to say he believes COVID-19 was "just an excuse" for FSU to not play the game. He said, "I don’t think it has anything to do with their players. I have no doubt that their players wanted to play and would have played. And same with the coaches. To me, the Florida State administration forfeited the game.”

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich wonders if college football needs an "on-call arbiter to be able to look at some of these things and really make a determination" whether a game can be played if things "can’t be agreed upon by the two Chief Medical Officers." Radakovich: "It’s one of those things that needs to be looked at as we continue to move toward the end of the season right now."

To see SBJ Daily's full coverage of the Clemson-FSU cancellation, click here.

After Kim Ng, Who Will Be Next?

When the Marlins announced the hiring of Kim Ng as their new general manager on Nov. 13, the longtime baseball executive quickly found herself deluged by a sea of correspondence from people who reached out to congratulate her. By the time of her introductory press conference at Marlins Park three days later, more than 1,000 people had emailed and texted Ng on becoming the first woman to hold a GM role in any of the five major men’s sports leagues in North America.

Some called and said they couldn’t wait to tell their wives and daughters the news. Some baseball executives had tears of joy over what it meant for the national pastime and for society that the 52-year-old Ng had broken through one of the most significant gender barriers in sports.

Ng’s hiring naturally raises the question of whether it will open doors for other women to break through, not just in MLB but in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLS as well. In this week's print issue of SBJ, Eric Prisbell identifies some other female executives in those leagues who sources said could one day follow Ng as a general manager.

Why The NBA Faces An Even Bigger Hurdle For Upcoming Season

Tonight's op-ed contribution is from Jed Corenthal, chief marketing officer at livestreaming provider Phenix. He writes under the header, "Creating a 'Virtual Couch' Experience During the 2020-21 NBA Season."
 
"Now that the 2020-21 season is set to start play on Dec. 22, executives must realistically consider how they can engage fans virtually in time for the start of the season and beyond. As more sports fans cut the cord this year and the entire sports world grapples with lower viewership ratings, the league must invest in engaging and interactive viewing experiences with the right technology to make it all happen."

To read the full contribution, click here.

Speed Reads

  • SBJ's annual reader survey received a rebrand this year for its 16th edition. Now known as the Sports Industry Report, the 2020 questionnaire focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp rise of social justice awareness. This year also saw record voter turnout for survey, conducted by MarketCast. To see a full breakdown of the data, click here.
  • The Bucks today formally confirmed that games at Fiserv Forum for the 2020-21 season "will be held without fans until further notice in accordance with state and local guidance due to COVID-19 safety protocols." The NBA season will begin on Dec. 22, with teams playing 72 games. Bucks officials said that they "will continue to work with local health officials, as well as the NBA, to evaluate a potential return for fans in some capacity later this season."
  • A maximum of 4,000 fans "will be allowed at outdoor events in the lowest-risk areas" of the U.K. when the four-week coronavirus lockdown ends on Dec. 2, per the BBC. Up to 2,000 people "will be allowed" in "Tier 2" areas but none in "Tier 3." Indoor venues in tiers 1 and 2 can have a "maximum of 1,000 spectators, with capacity across indoor and outdoor venues limited to 50%."

News From Sports Business Daily

During this crisis impacting the sports business, we want everyone to be up-to-date on the latest news and information. Select stories from Sports Business Daily are free, outside the paywall, for the foreseeable future. Below are the headlines: