SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — After announcing its preseason polls and awards on Monday, the Summit League now faces the task of actually conducting a basketball season in the face of COVID-19.
Only days after the Summit League crowned its champions last March, the NCAA Tournament was canceled.
“For those student-athletes that practiced all year and then had that taken away from them, that sting and that hurt is still felt, that’s for sure,” Summit League commissioner Tom Douple said.
Nearly eight months later, the Summit League is preparing for a new, but very different, season.
“This is a terrible time for the country, for higher education, for even the state right now, and we’re just learning every day. We’re trying to make tough and bad decisions, and answer questions that we’ve never even been able to think about before,” Douple said.
The NCAA has requirements of its own.
“They want to create what they call a red zone around the court. That means no sideline seating for fans. We’re going to have everyone with masks at the scorer’s table, or shields. We’re going to have to move the media back. They’re also asking not to have the bands and cheerleaders near the courts. There’s going to be a lot of changes that you’re going to see,” Douple said.
The Summit League Tournament will also have a different look.
“There’s going to be seating issues, as far as social distancing, so we’re going to be starting to work with the arena and see if we can try and make as great of an atmosphere as we can, but keep in mind our goal is for the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Douple said.
That’s where the “red zone” comes into play.
“We will be creating that red zone around the court. We’re looking at putting up the hockey boards and the glass all the way around, creating a small environment for our students,” Douple said.
This year’s tournament ultimately hinges on staying healthy.
“The one thing that can knock us out is if you have one positive test among any of your men’s and women’s teams, it knocks that team out, and so we really need to isolate them and make it as safe as possible to get the games in,” Douple said.
Summit League teams open non-conference play on November 25th. Conference action starts on January 2nd. Douple hopes to release the schedule, which was finalized Tuesday, next week.