LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The term "all-inclusive" isn't just for island vacations anymore. If Atlantic Coast Conference basketball coaches had their way, it also would refer to the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
The 15 ACC men's coaches voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the idea. Louisville's Chris Mack said "we strongly believe it's in the game's best interest" to include all Division I schools in the COVID-altered edition of March Madness next spring.
The statement came above his signature.
The vote is the latest signal that Power 5 conferences could be moving to limit competition to conference games only, or at least curtail the number of non-conference games.
The NCAA has yet to announce its plans for the upcoming basketball season, though several proposals for various NBA-style "bubbles" have been proposed, and are getting a serious look. Those would allow a group of teams to play a number of non-conference games in a secure setting over a short time-frame.
The college basketball season was scheduled to begin on Nov. 5, but the men's and women's oversight committees last week voted to propose a Nov. 25 start to college basketball. That proposal will eventually be sent to the Division I Council, which is scheduled to meet on Sept. 16.
If non-conference play is curtailed, the thinking of ACC coaches that the only fair way to do the tournament is to include everyone.
Determining one team's "tournament resume" against another would become much more difficult.
Mack wasn't the only ACC coach Tweeting his approval. Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes Tweeted, "I am so proud to stand UNITED with every coach in the ACC in the belief that every Division I college basketball program should be allowed to participate in the NCAA Tournament this year! This is what's best for our student-athletes, fans and the sport of college basketball. It will incentivize everyone that loves and cares about our great sport during these unprecedented times, and it will provide a safe environment for all to participate in. LET'S GET THIS DONE!"
On the other side, NCAA president Mark Emmert has hinted at a smaller NCAA Tournament, not a bigger one.
"Starting with 64 teams is tough. Thirty-two, OK, maybe that's a manageable number. Sixteen, certainly manageable. But you've got to figure out those logistics," Emmert said in an interview on the NCAA's website in August. "There's doubtless ways to make that work."
At some point, though, Emmert added, cost comes into play.
"It's obviously expensive to do that," he said. "But we're not going to hold a championship in a way that puts student-athletes at risk. If we need to do a bubble model and that's the only way we can do it, then we'll figure that out."
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