SPOKANE, Wash. — College basketball's season is slated to start in less than a month. When it begins, Gonzaga's non-conference schedule will most likely look entirely different than what it did coming into Monday.
The Athletic reports that ESPN has backed out of putting on 10 different college basketball tournaments that were slated to start the season in Orlando in November. The events have not been officially canceled yet but ESPN will no longer be affiliated with them.
“We’ve decided to redirect our efforts to be sure the teams have enough time to make other plans,” Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, told The Athletic. “At the end of the day our bias was toward safety and making sure that what we pulled off was in the best interests of the sport. In the absence of those things, we decided we’re better off letting schools do their own thing.”
This could impact several games for Gonzaga. They were slated to play in the NIT Preseason Tip-Off in Orlando, opening their season against Auburn on Nov. 27. If the Zags won, they would play the winner of Houston vs. Texas Tech.
The Zags also scheduled Tennessee in Orlando on Dec. 2 as part of the Jimmy V Classic. Both of the events were slated to take place at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.
ESPN told The Athletic that the network hopes to salvage the Jimmy V Classic and put it on at a different location, so that is good news for Gonzaga fans.
Health protocols seem to be the main point of contention for the event, as several schools did not want to comply to ESPN's protocols surrounding COVID-19. The biggest issue was the network was going to make teams retest players who had tested positive for COVID-19 beginning 90 days after they had been clear of the virus.
There were also many questions in terms of contact tracing if a player tested positive in Orlando, and if that would make an entire team go into quarantine in Orlando.
The only games truly set for Gonzaga's non-conference schedule right now are against Baylor on Dec. 5 in Indianapolis and against Iowa on Dec. 19 in Sioux Falls. Both games will be broadcasted on KREM.