Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 24, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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8 OCT. 24, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME It Sounds Good In Theory, But Is Premature By Lou Somogyi On Oct. 14, the NCAA Division I Council approved a ruling that will allow all collegiate athletes involved in 2020-21 winter sports to receive an extra year of eligibility. A part of me that says this is fantastic, especially for the Notre Dame men's basketball program, whose modus operandi has been to "get old and stay old." Current projected junior starters such as point guard Prentiss Hubb, wings Cormac Ryan and Dane Good- win, and forward Nate Laszewski (plus guard Robby Carmody) can build a chemistry together not only for the next two but the next three seasons, right through 2022-23. Even current fifth-year senior center Juwan Durham now would have the option to return in 2021-22. However, the practical side of me says the natural balance of eligibility gets out of whack, and becomes even unfair. We don't know if a full season of college basketball will take place this year, including the NCAA Tournament. But if it does, there shouldn't be an extra year still added on for eligibility. That's even more unfair to graduated players such as John Mooney, T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger, who had postseason action last year ripped away from them. On Aug. 11, the Big Ten announced that it would not engage in football or any fall sports this year because of the threat of the coronavirus. While well intentioned, it also seemed premature and with a too-much finality before gathering more data. Upon further review … it has now reversed its course. This winter sports decision likewise seems too early to make. Yes, This Season Is Already A Guaranteed Mess By Patrick Engel Lou actually touched on a reason why I think the timing is correct when he said we don't know if a full season will take place. That's all the more reason to make this move right away. Here's my understanding of why the decision was made now. We know there will be postponements. Lots of them. At a higher rate than football. There are no plans for bubbles, no COVID-19 treatment and daily testing is not locked in across all conferences. NCAA recommendations currently state an entire basketball team must quarantine for two weeks if one player or coach tests positive. There's not much confidence teams will play their full 20- to 25-game schedules because of such stringent policies. That's not a normal season, in length or usual fan- fare. That reality is not going to change. So why make it count toward a player's eligibility after the two prec- edents we already have? And, more importantly, mak- ing players wait for answers is unneeded stress to bear during their seasons. Prior to the fall sports ruling, we heard football coaches, including Brian Kelly, mention how their players were anxious about the lack of answers regard- ing their careers. There's no reason to put basketball players through that harmful headspace, too. Maybe it's not fair to those who lost a postseason chance last year, but in this COVID-19 age of college sports, balancing collateral damage and logisti- cal challenges are not excuses for inaction. And I think this decision will prove much less challenging to logistically manage than it will for football anyway. Point ✦ Counterpoint: SHOULD 2020-21 WINTER ATHLETES AUTOMATICALLY RECEIVE AN EXTRA YEAR? All of Notre Dame's coaches continue to face the strangest and most unpredictable year of their careers because of COVID-19. And Irish men's head soccer coach Chad Riley makes a strong case as the leader of a program facing the strangest circum- stances of them all. After the uncertainty through the spring and summer of wondering if there would even be a fall soccer sea- son, the 12-member ACC and Notre Dame approved for this fall a shortened eight-game and regional regular-season schedule before an eight-team ACC Tournament slated for Nov. 15-22. The NCAA Tournament has been tentatively postponed from this fall to next spring. Preliminary plans of resuming "regular" play in the spring of 2021 — months after the ACC Tour- nament is already completed — remain fluid. But Riley suggested that his team might play another 12 regular-season games in the spring that would feed into a national championship tournament. In his third season coaching the Irish, Riley's team appeared in the NCAA Tournament each of his first two seasons and the same is expected this year, despite the Irish being picked in the preseason to finish last in the six-team North Division of the ACC. Blue & Gold Illustrated caught up with Riley to discuss his team and the unprecedented circum- stances surrounding this season. BGI: First off, what was the level of ex- citement from the players knowing that there would actually be a fall season? Riley: "Very excited. It was hard when they didn't know what the schedule was going to look like, so they were really thank- ful and so excited to get that schedule. Just getting something to focus on and for us to work toward has been a huge bonus for us. "They're kind of old-school guys. They love to play the game. They want to be at school, and they want to compete." BGI: During these strange times, what has most caught your attention while coaching this team? Riley: "It's that funny balance between kind of the competitive side, focusing on winning games and winning championships, with that perspec- tive of being thankful of being together and actu- ally playing. "Especially at the start of preseason, you haven't seen each other for five months, then it's kind of weird coming back together because you can't re- ally hug or shake hands, but then there was the joy of being back together training again." BGI: Coming off two straight NCAA Tournament appearances and your team is picked to finish last in its division, how did that happen? Riley: "Part of it is our league is so strong. So, we could be picked to finish sixth in our league but also be ranked sixth in the country. And part of that, also, is there are guys on our team who are really becoming good players now but didn't have the big reputation coming into college. "They are very driven to prove that they're re- ally good players, and I think this group will do it." BGI: What do you expect the identity of this team to be? Riley: "Every Notre Dame soccer team will be good because they're actually a team. We're not going to win because we have two guys who we give the ball to and then hope they do something with it. "It's what we do as a team. I think it's a team that reacts well to whatever situation." BGI: How would you evaluate the fall schedule, especially knowing that four of the 12 ACC teams won't qualify for the conference tournament? Riley: "Every team we play is quite good. And especially this year, every team we'll play in the fall is a top-20 team and I think every one of them went to the NCAA Tournament last year." — Todd D. Burlage Five Questions With … NOTRE DAME HEAD MEN'S SOCCER COACH CHAD RILEY RILEY Another year of eligibility for winter ath- letes could be beneficial to head coach Mike Brey's men's basketball program. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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