NCAA teams that opted out – How stupid must they feel

Harvard basketball team in Toronto Nov 2019. Photo by Chris McKee.

The entire Ivy League conference along with a number of other teams decided to opt out of the 2020-21 season over health concerns.

How stupid do you feel right about now?

That’s a serious question for the entire Ivy League conference as well as the multiple other schools that decided to opt out of the 2020-21 NCAA basketball season.

Many of the conference tournaments are underway with a handful of schools already punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Yet those schools that opted out are sitting at home watching.

March Madness is full steam ahead and set to tip off March 18 at several locations surrounding the Indianapolis area. Yet those schools that opted out will be sitting at home watching.

The states of Texas and Mississippi just announced this week that they are opening up “100 percent” with zero restrictions or mask mandates in place. They both follow the state of Florida which has been open for several months including hosting the Super Bowl back on February 7 in front of a packed Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The excitement is palpable heading toward March Madness following a 2020 season that saw the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. Yet those schools that opted out are sitting at home watching.

Aside from the entire Ivy League conference, the likes of Bethune-Cookman opted out of the 2020-21 season for “health concerns” as well as Maryland Eastern Shores and Chicago State. Several other really bad teams (Howard, Maine, Charleston Southern, Jacksonville and Holy Cross) used the same excuse in February simply so they could pull the plug on losing seasons.

About a dozen schools opted out in basketball while over 300 others played this year and all is fine and dandy with those players and coaches.

With zero reported deaths or serious health issues as a result of Covid during any game, practice or team activity to any NCAA basketball or football player, coach or staff member throughout the 2020-21 season; how stupid must they feel to have cancelled their season?

How can any official or coach from any of the schools who opted out look their players in the eyes right now and tell them this was all for their benefit and safety?

A recent study posted on Yale University sponsored website Medxriv by doctors and epidemiologists from Harvard and Georgia Tech states “The in-person attendance of (NCAA and NFL) games has varied with time and from county to county. There is currently no evidence on whether limited in-person attendance of games has caused a substantial increase in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.”

This is the same study cited by Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork in his decision to proceed with a full football stadium in the fall of 2021.

If any serious health issues had arisen because of players competing in NCAA sports over the past year there would have been no shortage of media members who would’ve been ecstatic to report such devastating news (see Dennis Dodd from CBS among others).

However, we have nothing.

Think about how many dreams of young men and women have been squashed based on the decisions of these school officials who refused to walk away from their fears in spite of an overwhelming amount of evidence playing out in front of them on television and in arenas and gyms across the United States.

At least the Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott had the courage to reverse his original decision of cancelling football and basketball and eventually letting them play (spoiler alert, all the players and coaches are alive and well).

You have to feel for the players at these programs who have been guided down the wrong path and now have to sit and watch as their peers at over 300 universities and colleges across the country live out their dreams on television while they sit at home.

When the bracket for March Madness is set and you’re filled with excitement after spending the entire day bouncing back and forth between NCAA tournament games; stop and ask yourself one question.

How stupid do they feel right about now?