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Bryan Cooney, [email protected]
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the dates for national college basketball tournaments slated to be played in Southwest Florida this winter.
But it can also play a role in the number of tournaments played here in November and December.
The NCAA announced on Wednesday that its Division I board has set the start date for the 2020-21 college basketball season as Nov. 25. The initial start date was November 10.
The Gulf Coast Showcase was scheduled to be played November 23-25 (men) and November 27-29 (women) at the Hertz Arena, while the Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Fort Myers Tip-Off was scheduled for November 23 and 25 at FSW’s Suncoast. Credit Union Arena.
Brooks Downing and Mark Starsiak, who run the Gulf Coast Showcase and Fort Myers Tip-Off respectively, said that while they are setting the dates by next week, they also plan to bring more teams here for additional tournaments.
Downing confirmed that he had been in contact with officials from the Naples Community School to move the Bahamian Islands showcase here between December 1 and December 22. He also said there might be another event moved here from the Caribbean “which would be good for Southwest Florida”.
Although moving the event to the Bahamas here brings Iona with coach Rick Pitino, Canterbury graduate Berrick Jeanlouis and Naples Community School graduate Parker Weiss, Downing said the plan was not to welcome fans. With the success of the NBA bubbles in Orlando and the WNBA in Bradenton, Downing is working on a Southwest Florida bubble in December.
“There are a number of issues that need to be resolved,” he said. “We thought the season would start on November 21, which would have kept the dates intact, but the decision was made on November 25 because that’s when most campuses empty and many leave for them. winter vacation. You’re also working with travel restrictions for the Northeast teams, and you envision teams starting a season with three games in three days, so we may have to change their appearance. We are looking at anything that may make sense.
Downing said schools have been working with him because he has been hosting these events here since 2013.
“There is a desire to play in an environment that has health and safety protocols that are fair so they can take place with confidence,” he said. “We will also perform the necessary tests and ensure that the main pillars of the event – the team hotel, ground transportation and play venues – are up to standard. “
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Former FGCU coach Joe Dooley will bring his team from East Carolina to the Gulf Coast Showcase. Other teams involved in the event before the pandemic included Akron, Delaware, Fordham, Vermont, Indiana State, Omaha, and Middle Tennessee State.
Starsiak said the four teams playing in the Fort Myers Tip-Off – Wisconsin, Butler, South Florida and Colorado – are still engaged. FS1 still plans to broadcast the event. Fan participation is an issue at this point, he said.
“The basic guide rails are set, now the conferences have to come together and do other guide rails and figure out how many games teams can play and where they can go,” Starsiak said. “All four schools are committed and love the location. We will keep the broadcast intact.
Teams must stay at the Westin Cape Coral Resort in Marina Village and at the Marriott Sanibel Harbor Resort & Spa.
“The bubble has been thrown a lot,” Starsiak said. “What does that mean? Colleges and the NCAA have good language about it. Controlled environments. The bubble is unique in an economic model. There is a desire to have best practices as much as possible. . We are looking for fans, of course, but we also have to work with our partners in FSW and Lee County. People come from different parts of the country. Tolerance is different in different areas. We will do what is safer and more. is the smartest decision.
Starsiak said that before the pandemic there was talk of expansion. It could happen as early as this year.
“The infrastructure here is so great,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to expand beyond a single event.
“Schools decide on international travel, which has affected the travel industry. I hate to see our industry hit like that, other tournaments get hit. For teams struggling to find an event, we can be the solution. “
Last season, the Gulf Coast Showcase impacted direct visitor spending of $ 1,068,229 based on 2,736 hotel nights. The Fort Myers Tip-Off impacted direct visitor spending by $ 874,330 based on 2,192 hotel nights, according to Lee County government statistics.