Michigan State won't tip off season in Orlando after ESPN cancels events in Florida city
It looks like Michigan State won’t be tipping off its season in Orlando, after all.
While final college basketball schedules are still being worked on, ESPN’s plan to hold several multiple-team events it owns in the Florida city are being scrapped.
“ESPN Events set out to create a protected environment for teams to participate in early-season events in Orlando,” the network said in a statement released on Monday. “Based on certain challenges surrounding testing protocols, we opted to resume these tournaments during the 2021-22 season.”
The news was first reported by The Athletic.
“We’ve decided to redirect our efforts to be sure the teams have enough time to make other plans,” Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, told The Athletic. “At the end of the day our bias was toward safety and making sure that what we pulled off was in the best interests of the sport. In the absence of those things, we decided we’re better off letting schools do their own thing.”
Michigan State is scheduled to play in two of the events that were to be played in Orlando — the eight-team Orlando Invitational and the Champions Classic, in which the Spartans were set to take on Duke.
According to the report, ESPN is attempting to salvage two of the events — the Champions Classic and the Jimmy V Classic — at other locations, meaning the Michigan State-Duke matchup as well as Kansas-Kentucky could still take place. The event was originally scheduled to open the season on Nov. 10 in Chicago.
The NCAA announced last month that the season could begin on Nov. 25 with teams being limited to 27 total games if they played in a multi-team event, or 25 games if they did not play in an MTE. Losing the events in Orlando throws a wrench into an already complicated process as teams are already practicing for a season that hasn’t been set up.
According to the report from The Athletic, the main sticking point in pulling out of the events was getting schools to agree on ESPN’s plan to follow CDC guidelines on COVID-19 testing and safety protocols more restrictive than some of the conferences.