College basketball is officially scheduled to begin on Nov. 25, which is several weeks later than a typical start date.
The NCAA Division I Council announced the new date on Wednesday, adding that no exhibition games or scrimmages can be held prior to Nov. 25. Tennessee was originally scheduled to play Wisconsin on Nov. 11 and Presbyterian on Nov. 14.
“The new season start date near the Thanksgiving holiday provides the optimal opportunity to successfully launch the basketball season,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said. “It is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”
Most college campuses will be concluding their fall semesters before Thanksgiving this year, which will make it easier to start a basketball season without as many other students around.
“By Thanksgiving week, the date of Nov. 25, 76% of all Division I schools will have either finished their fall semester completely or released the general student body for in-person instruction,” Gavitt said.
Tennessee — and other schools — will have around six weeks to launch a college basketball season before students return for the spring semester.
Teams are now allowed to play a maximum of 25 games along with one multiple-team event. The minimum number of games required for an NCAA Tournament berth is now 13, which is a 50% reduction from the normal number.
Tennessee is scheduled to play in the Charleston Classic, which will now take place in a bubble in Orlando. The field also includes Florida State, Houston, Oklahoma State, Penn State, VCU, Seton Hall and Charleston.
Sources: Orlando will host the following eight early season events during the first few weeks of the college basketball season.
Jimmy V Classic
Myrtle Beach Invitational
Diamond Head Classic
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 15, 2020
Full preseason practices are allowed to begin Oct. 14. Teams can practice 30 times during the 42 days prior to the start of the regular season. Strength and conditioning and skill training is allowed for up to 12 hours per week between Sept. 21 and Oct. 13.
Gavitt said it’s unlikely any non-conference event prior to Nov. 25 will be granted a waiver, so Tennessee’s games against Wisconsin and Presbyterian will have to either be re-scheduled or cancelled.
“There is a waiver process always that can be utilized,” Gavitt said. “The oversight committees are not very open-minded about supporting waivers to start early than the 25th. They didn’t even allow for any scrimmages or exhibition games to be completed before the 25th. It’d be an extremely high bar to get a waiver granted to start the season any earlier than Nov. 25.”
The NCAA is still planning for the NCAA tournament to process as usual, with 68 teams making the field at 14 different sites in March and April. College basketball’s early signing period (Nov. 11-18) will occur during the new recruiting dead period, which was extended through Jan. 1.