Daily Noontime (Thursday, October 16, 2020)

 

By Matt Noonan

Welcome to Thursday, everyone! 

It’s quite chilly outside this morning. In fact, I almost ordered a hot coffee from Starbucks but chose a cold brew instead. Was that a bad decision? 

Let’s get to some news from the sports world, beginning with a recent update from the National Football League (NFL): The Atlanta Falcons are shutting down their facility due to “multiple positive tests.” 

What exactly does this mean? We’re unsure, but as of now, the Falcons are scheduled to meet the Minnesota Vikings this weekend, but that game could be postponed or canceled, so stay tuned. 

I am sorry to share not-so-good news (again!), but Nick Saban, who is the head coach of the University of Alabama‘s football team, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Additionally, Greg Byrne, who is the school’s athletic director, also tested positive, which means this weekend’s conference clash between the Tide and the University of Georgia could be postponed, but who knows? 

As we noted yesterday on our mid-afternoon ‘Daily Noontime,’ two Southeastern Conference (SEC) football games for this weekend have been postponed. According to this week’s schedule from ESPN.com (as of 9 a.m. this morning), three college football games have been postponed this week. Could we see a few more due to a recent uptick in coronavirus cases?  

Staying in the college athletic world, the NCAA‘s Division I Council voted yesterday to provide student-athletes that compete during the wintertime an extra year of eligibility. And according to Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic, those that play basketball or hockey would be able to return to campus next year even if they play one or two contests. 

The NCAA also unveiled 450 host sites for upcoming championships, including lacrosse, which will return to Gillette Stadium in 2025 and 2026

Here are some more news and links from the world wide web: 

Noontime Commentary: Early Thoughts On The Upcoming Fall Sports Season

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The upcoming fall sports season could look a bit different than past years. (PHOTO COURTESY: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan

Last Friday, we received some insight from NCAA president Mark Emmert about what fans and followers of college athletics should expect for the upcoming fall sports season. And it doesn’t sound like business as usual due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Speaking with host Andy Katz on the NCAA’s Twitter handle, Emmert announced that sporting events and games will not occur without students on campus. He also emphasized that some teams could compete immediately while others may not be able to, especially if campuses remain closed and classes are held virtually.

And just for those keeping track at home, I paraphrased “immediately” – he did not say that word!  

The thought of seeing some teams compete in late August or early September is something I believe could happen. But which schools will be able to roll out the footballs and soccer balls at the end of the summer is a mystery.

Could we see the University of Alabama or the University of Texas at Austin compete right away or will both institutions have to delay the start of their respective fall sports season?

What about schools in California, Washington, or even Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island? Will they be able to play some games in late September or early October?

Could we see schools reopen in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, but not in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island? And would those schools be able to play games?

Should we expect fans on campus every Saturday to cheer on the Syracuse University football team?

Will, there be supporters at future Penn State University field hockey or soccer games?

These questions – and of course, others – are just a few on my mind, but the other thought percolating in my head is about scheduling. Could we see current games eliminated and new contests scheduled? I think so.

As much as I would love to say all games that are currently scheduled will happen would be hard to justify. Sure, many would love to circle the date for some must-see, must-follow contests later this year, especially a few local rivalries such as Harvard University vs. Yale University in football.

Additionally, I do anticipate some conferences (and leagues) will have to play each other more than once – maybe twice or three times? – especially if only a handful of schools are open in late August and early September.

And how about this thought: could we see some Division II teams playing against Division III squads, especially in the northeast? It would be fascinating to see (and watch) Assumption College square-off against WPI, but I don’t think that would happen.

Luckily, it is only May and we do have some time before the 2020 college sports season begins. But I do expect some announcements to occur about the future of fall sports in the coming weeks.

It is great to hear – and learn – about various schools planning to reopen (or be open) this fall, but with so much uncertainty these days, it just seems unlikely that college sports will look the same as they did in previous years come September and October.

Here’s hoping – and yes, some positive thoughts and vibes – but no matter who plays, we look forward to providing our audience with some coverage remotely.

Texas’ Del Conte Believes College Football Is “Going To Happen In The Fall.”

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University of Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte believes a college football season could happen this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Eric Gay (AP))

By Matt Noonan 

In a recent interview with Horns247 columnist Chip Brown, the University of Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said he believes there will be college football taking place this fall.

“I do believe we’re going to have football in the fall,” Del Conte told Brown during this afternoon’s ‘Live Virtual Chat,’ which can be seen on the 247Sports YouTube channel.

In addition to saying that he believes football will happen, Del Conte also stressed the importance of safety, especially with getting fans of the Longhorns “into the stadium.”

Safety will be the number one priority for all schools with getting their student-athletes back on the field. Additionally, every institution must follow the NCAA’s nine-step and three-phase plan, which would help schools like Texas be able to play its upcoming slate of games.

Del Conte is not the only one that seems to believe college football games will occur in a few months. As we reported last Friday, the University of Alabama President Dr. Stuart Bell told local media members that his school will “have a football season and fans will be part of it in our stadium.”

Of course, there are others that seem to believe college football will take place later this year, but it is hard to predict, especially during a time when so many states are beginning to reopen and the situation remains fluid. But it is possible some areas of the country, which have not been affected too much by the coronavirus (COVID-19) could see games played – maybe with no fans? – while others such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and New Jersey may not host sporting events.

The University of Alabama Plans To Play Football Games This Fall

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The University of Alabama plans to host football games this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: College Football News)

By Matt Noonan 

There will be football played in Tuscaloosa this fall, according to the University of Alabama President Dr. Stuart Bell. 

Speaking with local media members on Thursday, April 30, including CBS 42, Bell said the university plans to “have a football season and fans will be a part of it in our stadium.” Additionally, Bell is optimistic the school’s other fall sports teams will be able to compete, too.

“Those are our plans,” Bell said, via CBS 42, “and it’s a high bar and anticipates that we will be able to meet that.”

The state of Alabama currently has 7,019 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) as of this evening and began its reopening yesterday.

The University of Alabama’s fall semester doesn’t begin until Wednesday, August 19, which means both Bell and the school’s task force does have some time to establish necessary safety measures for its students, along with its faculty and staff members.

In addition to Alabama planning to host football games in the fall, Texas A&M plans to have its College Station campus ready for the upcoming season, while the University of Georgia should be ready to compete, as well.

On Friday, the NCAA unveiled its nine-step and three-phase process for all divisions, which will help not just Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M, but every school across the country with getting its student-athletes back on the playing field.

New England Basketball Notebook: Harvard Shines In Season-Opener

Men's Basketball between the Harvard Crimson and the Columbia Lions

Bryce Aiken and the Harvard University men’s basketball team are motivated to return to the NCAA Tournament this upcoming season. (PHOTO COURTESY: David Dermer/Harvard Athletics)

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

For Harvard University, Tuesday’s 84-27 victory over MIT was an ideal way to begin a new season, but also an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum heading into an important non-conference clash on Friday with Northeastern University.

Multiple Crimson players contributed on both ends of the floor against the Engineers, including first-year forward Chris Ledlum, who recorded his first collegiate double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Christian Juzang netted 12 points, while classmate Chris Lewis stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one block.

Harvard’s 57-point victory margin matched the 1945-46 team, which established the mark with their win over Northeastern.

While it certainly was an impressive start to their 2019-20 campaign, Harvard, as well as their coach Tommy Amaker, know they have more work to do in order to accomplish their preseason goals. And one of those goals, according to senior guard Bryce Aiken, is to return to the NCAA Tournament, something the Crimson have not done since 2015.

Harvard has come close to returning to the ‘big dance,’ but has fallen short the past three seasons in the Ivy League tournament. Additionally, they saw their run toward a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) title conclude twice within the past two years, including this past March when they lost a heartbreaker in the second round to North Carolina State University.

But despite falling short of accomplishing past preseason goals or winning tournaments and championships, Aiken remains optimistic. He believes this year’s crew can “make history,” and from what fans witnessed the other evening against MIT, perhaps the senior guard believes this year’s squad is truly capable of not just winning an Ivy League conference tournament but challenging other teams from across the country for the ultimate prize, a national championship. 

“The biggest motivation for us as seniors (this year) is leaving with a bang, man,” said senior Bryce Aiken, who elected to return to campus for one more season after initially entering his name for the 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft last April.

“We haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament, so that is the biggest motivating factor for us.”

Added Juzang, “It’s been three years of all of us (for) things you can look at and you can call motivation (from) the Ivy League championship games, the NC State game, and we could point to a bunch of different things, but I think the biggest thing is (we’re) internally driven, not getting pushed around by the expectations and whatnot.”

The expectations, as both the coaches and student-athletes know, is rather high for a team that is scheduled to face some stiff competition this month against Northeastern, University at Buffalo, and Texas A&M. Harvard could also face the University of Maryland this month, too – they would need to beat the Aggies of Texas A&M in the opening round of the Orlando Invitational, which is scheduled to commence on Thanksgiving Day.

Weeks after competing in the Orlando Tournament, Harvard will commence conference play in mid-to-late January against Dartmouth College before ending the month with a visit to the University of Pennsylvania, which opened its 2019-20 season with an 81-80 win over the University of AlabamaPenn lost to Harvard last March in the Ivy League semifinals but was picked second in the conference preseason poll.

Yet, before Harvard worries about Dartmouth, Penn, and other future foes, they will keep their focus on Northeastern, a team that beat the Crimson last November, thanks to a game-high 35 points by Jordan Rolland. Rolland will certainly be a player the Crimson will need to slow down in order to pick-up their second win of the season, but from a quick glance at this year’s roster, Harvard is loaded with talent to slow down their opponents’ top players, and will certainly receive a boost from an impressive and hard-working first-year class.

Amaker praised his freshman class, which was ranked 38th nationally, according to 247Sports.com. All five newcomers logged time on Tuesday against MIT and have seemed to adapt to the college game quite well it seems.

“I have been impressed with our first-years,” said Amaker during the team’s media day last Friday. “This is a tough-minded group. They are physical – you look at who they are (with their) bodies and (what) they are capable of taking in … they have been durable, but they have been very (impressive) with their durability, dependability, and then fitting in.

“Our future is good hands with this first-year class.”

No matter who is on the floor Friday and later this season – Aiken, Ludlum, Juzang, sophomore Noah Kirkwood or seniors Seth Towns and Henry Welsh – Harvard is expected to compete and play some impressive basketball that should translate into more wins and an exciting 2019-20 season.

News and Notes from New England: 

  • Andrew Fleming became the 31st player in the University of Maine men’s basketball program to net 1,000 points as the senior helped the Black Bears defeat Merrimack College, 84-64, on Wednesday evening. Fleming, who was named a preseason America East All-Conference honoree, recorded 37 points and 10 rebounds against the Warriors to go along with five assists and two blocks.
  • Keep your eyes on the Saint Anselm College women’s basketball team this weekend – the Hawks, who were picked to finish atop the Northeast-10 Conference will tip-off Saturday, November 9th against Bloomfield College at 6:30 p.m. After facing the Bears, the Hawks will cap their weekend with a late Sunday afternoon contest against the University of Bridgeport.

    Senior Shannon Ryan will be one of many student-athletes to watch on the Hawks this winter. Ryan recorded a double-double of 29 points and 18 rebounds last weekend against Bishop’s University.

  • WPI, which secured the fourth spot in our New England D-III Men’s Basketball Top 10 Preseason Poll, tips-off its season against ninth-ranked Brandeis University on Friday. Both teams are two squads to watch this winter – the Engineers were picked to capture the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), while Brandeis is expected to continue its success from last year under second-year coach Jean Bain.
  • Finally, make sure to read Bob Whitney‘s first column, Around The Rim – I am very excited to have Bob join our team this winter to produce some additional basketball content. Bob has covered the college and high school game for years and will be a great addition to our Noontime Sports staff.