Opinion: With Cancellation of Tournament, NCAA Should Allow Seniors To Return

Mar 25, 2020, 10:17 AM | Updated: 11:47 am
BYU forward Yoeli Childs celebrates with Jake Toolson and Alex Barcello during BYU's win over No. 2...
BYU forward Yoeli Childs celebrates with Jake Toolson and Alex Barcello during BYU's win over No. 2 Gonzaga on February 22nd, 2020. (Photo: BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
(Photo: BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – Sports are secondary to what’s truly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, but from a sports perspective, it’s very difficult letting your mind wander towards the canceled NCAA tournament.

We’ve known for a few weeks now that March Madness wouldn’t be the top story this time of year. I still don’t believe it was canceled. It was the right thing to do, but it’s hard to accept. Normally this time of year we are talking about which teams advanced to the Sweet 16.

As a sports fan, I find myself upset that we are robbed of March Madness but more than anything, I’m upset for the senior class at BYU who will never get the chance to do something special. They won’t get the chance to become immortalized, which would have happened if the Cougars had made a deep tournament run.

There have been numerous simulations and predictions on what would have happened if the tournament had been played. Most scenarios include BYU advancing past the first weekend.

Joe Lunardi of ESPN has them advancing to the Sweet 16 after a 40-foot, buzzer-beating three-pointer from Jake Toolson.

Ouch! That is hard to read for BYU fans. I can’t even imagine how difficult it’s been for Coach Mark Pope, the coaching staff, and the players. They never got the satisfaction of hearing their names called on selection Sunday. That was the goal all along.

Yoeli Childs returned for his senior season. That seemed impossible following the retirement of Dave Rose. Jake Toolson returned after winning WAC player of the year. Guys like Dalton Nixon, Zac Seljaas, and TJ Haws were going to get their first taste playing big minutes in the big dance.

It doesn’t matter what I type, the 2020 NCAA tournament is gone.

So, what’s next? Specifically, what does the NCAA do regarding this unfortunate situation?

I believe the right thing to do is allow seniors the option to return to their respective schools, if they so choose.

Most NCAA college hoops players will not go on to play professionally. Playing in the NCAA tournament, on a team that could have realistically went to the Sweet 16, would have been the highlight of their careers.

Coach Pope spoke to the media shortly after the tournament was canceled and spoke to the possibility of players returning.

“I believe this is true. There is nothing that could stop this team this year,” said Pope. “The one thing that stopped this team was a pandemic. I do suspect that I have a large group of seniors on this team that have fought so hard for this, and they still have a boatload of fight left in them. If the NCAA saw fit to grant them another shot at this, which seems like it’s the only just or fair thing to do, then I think we’d have some guys that would be really excited about it.”

I agree with Coach Pope. It’s the only fair thing to do considering the circumstances. Rules are rules. But there should be an exception made for a worldwide pandemic.

I understand there are difficulties and hurdles to overcome in order for this to become a reality, but with the tournament canceled, the NCAA has plenty of time to do the right thing.

Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth service through your healthcare providers.

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