A shortened A-10 men’s basketball regular season, potentially by at least two games for each team, and shifting of conference tournament sites caused confusion and debate among some league schools and fans.
The A-10 announced on Jan. 28 that the tournament semifinals and championship game would be played at the University of Richmond’s Robins Center, with VCU’s Siegel Center and UR sharing other tourney games. Last Thursday, the league adjusted the tournament schedule in these ways: It starts a week earlier, on March 3, with the title game being played at Dayton on March 14, and the March 6 semifinals are set for the Siegel Center rather than UR.
The women’s tournament at the Siegel Center was moved back from early March to March 10-14.
A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade addressed these topics and others in a Monday interview with The Times-Dispatch.
Question: Shortening the regular season by a minimum of two games per team offers fewer opportunities for league members to build NCAA at-large credentials, so why was that a wise move?
Answer: Well, we don’t look at it that way. We basically kept our dates of March 4, 5, 6, 7 open for the possibility of rescheduling. And then we had the opportunity, obviously, to move the championship up to provide us some flexibility between the men’s championship and our championship game if we had any COVID-related issues. As you know, we’ve had a significant number of issues. Even Richmond, right there, has been on COVID pause three different times during the year.
[Athletics directors] really looked at it, and we really only deleted one game, which were the games scheduled on the second and third of March. So they weighed the pros and cons and the majority felt like that since we had the VCU facility [already reserved for the women’s tournament], it was a good decision to take advantage of moving the men’s championship up a week earlier.
Question: Did the league make an attempt to reschedule that second VCU-Richmond game?
Answer: As a matter of fact, the original game was scheduled back in January, as you’re well aware, and then Richmond went on a COVID pause. So then we had the second game. We had looked at that open weekend, but we had not made commitments yet in that open weekend in March. And then we had the opportunity to schedule that game actually this past weekend, but that possibility didn’t work out. And so the rest of our schedule was pretty locked in with our TV commitments and the games that were already on the books.
Question: Were coaches involved in the decision to shorten the regular season?
Answer: It just depends on if their athletic directors engaged them and had brought them into the loop. That’s not a discussion that I would have with coaches. That’s a discussion that ADs have. I report to the presidents and to the ADs, and that’s who makes any of the administrative decisions. So it depends on what ADs had conversations with their coaches.
Question: According to the league, the March 6 semifinals were moved from the Robins Center to the Siegel Center “due to facility scheduling,” but Richmond VP/AD John Hardt said all facility scheduling issues had been resolved at UR. Could you provide some illumination?
Answer: The decision to flip-flop the [men’s and women’s] championships was based on the fact that we had VCU available because they already had reserved their building because they were going to host the women. We didn’t have Richmond’s facility, nor was that brought up in our administrative call when this concept got brought to the forefront about 10 days ago.
VCU’s building was booked. We had it available.
Question: Was the A-10 committed to that March 14 title-game window on CBS, and is that why the championship will be decided at Dayton, to avoid teams having to travel back to Richmond a week after the semifinals, and then allowing the A-10 champion to bus to Indianapolis for the start of the NCAAs?
Answer: No, ironically that was not the rationale for that decision. Ironically, the decision was once we decided we were going to bring the championship back a week, CBS is a great partner and the value of that window on selection Sunday is meaningful to the league, and we actually were talking about potentially playing that game at the higher seed of the two championship teams.
During that discussion with our board, the athletic directors, Dayton volunteered. They offered their building and said it was available. And when they offered their building, the conversation then transitioned to, “Wow, that’s interesting. That’s a great opportunity.” And then it was an added value when somebody said that in addition, the proximity to Indianapolis for our [automatic qualifier] would be additionally helpful.
The momentum then moved to, “Great, Dayton would be a great host. They’re willing to host. Their facility is available.” And there was literally no objection to that.
Question: Do you have concerns about the title game being eight days after the semifinals, which is an unusual situation, from a COVID-19 perspective, or otherwise?
Answer: Not really, because all of the teams will be going into the seven-day-consecutive testing protocol. The teams will be controlling their environments. They’ll be able to practice in their own facilities. Actually, it’s really a benefit because I don’t think any team really wanted to be off without any games, especially our AQ, for potentially maybe a 12- or 13-day period. So it actually keeps all the teams in playing shape.
Question: Richmond missed an important game against visiting Saint Louis on Jan. 29 because of “concerns raised by the Saint Louis medical staff.” According to Richmond, both teams were cleared to play. Could you elaborate on that postponement in any way?
Answer: No, no more than we already did. We already made the statement on that game, and the game was postponed … And just to be sure, within that window of 24 or 36 hours, right, Richmond went into another COVID pause with positive tests.
Question: Is the NIT still on the agenda?
Answer: According to what has been said publicly from the NCAA, they’re planning on an NIT, but it will be a reduced field. So I would anticipate we’ll probably be hearing maybe something by this week.