This could potentially have a direct impact on Kentucky’s inclusion in the Champions Classic, which is scheduled to tipoff in Orlando.
According to CBS Sports college basketball insider Matt Norlander, “Widespread concern is quickly escalating over the stability — if not survival — of every Orlando-based ESPN event.”
Norlander posted all of his thoughts and news regarding the situation in a detailed Twitter thread, which you can click on below, but essentially, this situation could impact more than two dozen Power 5 programs who are expected to participate in a multi-team event down at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. The environments would act as “Bubbles”, similar to what the NBA did in Orlando to finish up its 2019-20 season this past summer.
Teams connected to Orlando in varying capacities: Auburn, Baylor, Belmont, Boise St, Charlotte, Cinci, Furman, Gonzaga, Houston, Illinois, Kansas, Loyola-Chi, Michigan St, Mizzou, N. Texas, Tenn., Texas Tech, Saint Mary’s, SDSU, S. Hall, Oregon, Penn St, UCF, UCLA, Utah St, VCU.
— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) October 25, 2020
The most immediate issue presented to Kentucky Athletics and the Wildcat fanbase is the status of the Champions Classic that features the ‘Cats, Kansas, Michigan State, and Duke. Kentucky and Kansas are slated to play on Dec. 1 in the annual event, which Norlander said: “is going to happen in whatever capacity.” He expects major announcements regarding scheduling decisions to come in the next 2-3 days.
Norlander strung together 17 tweets in his thread detailing the situation, and I would highly encourage you to read over every single one (which have been conveniently lined up at this website), but here are some of his highlights that I believe to be the most pertinent.
- “A month ago, it seemed as though if there was going to be ONE location that was going to be the most secure in terms of attracting teams and holding MTEs, it was Orlando. That’s simply no longer the case.”
- “At this point, conferences (let alone schools) have different regulations in place for testing. And those differences in opinion and regulations have created a ripple effect of liability and flexibility (or lack thereof) that’s made things difficult to securely schedule.”
- “ESPN released two editions of its protocols to teams last week but the measures laid out were not enough to assuage concerns for many. One rule: if someone in your traveling party test positive for COVID, you have to be quarantined in Orlando for 14 days at the team’s expense.”
- “No game or MTE’s been 86’d. There’s still a path for Orlando, but one source calls it ‘a long shot.’ Another said it’s 50/50 they play there. Another said they’d put it at less than 25%. Yet another said ‘ESPN knows it’s on the fritz … my best guess is the whole thing folds.'”
- “Multiple coaches + administrators I’ve talked to are dumbfounded by the fact that when they step back and look at the calendar, they can’t believe we’re a month out from start of season and this is still the state of affairs with scheduling. Major decisions need to come this week.”
The initial good news from all of this is that Norlander believes the Champions Classic will play out regardless of what happens with the other MTEs. The bad news is we’re exactly one month from the start of the regular season and scheduling problems are seemingly getting more and more complicated. Orlando-based MTEs breaking down could have an indirect impact on Kentucky’s schedule going forward.
If only the NCAA and Power 5 conferences had the last, oh I don’t know, seven months to figure out these issues, we might not be in the situation… But I digress.