Bubble watch: NBA quarantine unlikely to be duplicated for NCAA hoops

Tad Boyle, JR Payne discuss compromised CU Buffs basketball seasons

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle understands the Pac-12’s decision from a medical and safety standpoint, but expressed disappointment the league opted to make the call so early.

It was exactly three weeks ago when, in a conversation with BuffZone, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle offered a small measure of optimism.

He also noted there might be a blueprint of sorts unfolding that could set at least a semblance of a template for a complete, and safe, 2020-21 college basketball season.

“I do believe we’ll have basketball,” Boyle said on July 22. “We’ve got to wait and see what happens with the NBA and see what direction this thing takes.”

So far, the resumption of the NBA season in a quarantine bubble in Orlando has been a sports success story. Yet it’s one unlikely to be replicated at the collegiate level.

One day after the Pac-12 Conference postponed all athletic competition until at least Jan. 1 — a sweeping decision that affects the entire fall sports slate in addition to the first two months of the men’s and women’s basketball season — Boyle and some of his CU coaching brethren offered their reactions in a virtual press conference.

As he did when the news broke Tuesday, Boyle said he understood the decision from a medical and safety standpoint, but expressed disappointment the league opted to compromise the basketball season at such an early juncture. On Tuesday, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said containing college athletes in the sort of bubbles used effectively, so far, by the NBA and NHL would be impossible to duplicate on college campuses. CU athletic director Rick George seconded that motion on Wednesday.

Still, a few national reports have hinted that bubble scenarios have been discussed by college basketball organizers. And Boyle believes his sport has missed an opportunity. Particularly since CU, along with many of the Pac-12 campuses, sits relatively empty during the semester break between Thanksgiving and early January.

“We’re not going to replicate the NBA,” Boyle said. “We don’t have the resources to do that, and right now we don’t have the testing capabilities to do that. I don’t know what our testing capabilities will be in November and December, but I know right now we’re not able to replicate the NBA bubble.

“What I do know is with every Pac-12 school basically doing online learning after the week of Thanksgiving, there’s about a four to six week period of time in the calendar where the college campuses in the Pac-12 will be the safest place that our student-athletes can be in terms of basketball. Because everyone goes home. We’re here by ourselves.”

CU women’s basketball coach JR Payne also took part in Wednesday’s media conference and expressed similar sentiments as Boyle. The women’s team may not be harboring the same NCAA Tournament hopes as Boyle’s squad, but the loss of two months of the season — likely permanently, though that has yet to be solidified — is no less disappointing.

“I think (Tuesday) was a very difficult and disappointing day for Pac-12 fans, supporters, and most importantly, our athletes,” Payne said. “We at CU feel very strongly that the protocols our medical team and administrators have put in place have given us the greatest opportunity to play. I know all of us feel very strongly about that. We just remain hopeful.”