The Wolverines won’t be putting their passports to use next season.
After initial optimism Michigan’s Dec. 6 contest against Kentucky at the O2 Arena in London would go on as planned, the overseas game has been pushed back to Dec. 4, 2022, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday.
“As we navigate these unprecedented times, the Basketball Hall of Fame has remained vigilant in placing health and safety above all else,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the unknown combination of health, safety, international travel regulations and the economic viability for all parties involved has required us to postpone this highly anticipated event at The O2. We look forward to hosting a fantastic event in 2022.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari acknowledged on March 24 the matchup might have to be moved due to travel concerns and the global coronavirus pandemic. A week later, the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is organizing the London game, said it was still moving forward with plans to hold the event.
The non-conference clash was set to be part of the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase and part of a doubleheader that would also include Marist and UMBC. The matchups were to be the first Division I college basketball games played at O2 Arena, one of the world’s most popular venues.
"We know precautions and new guidelines are being created and used every day due to the coronavirus," Michigan coach Juwan Howard said in a statement. "The Hall of Fame took the time to review what is happening around the world and explore all options — all the safe options for the teams and most importantly the fans. The best thing is this tremendous event isn't canceled, it's just delayed."
The international affair was supposed to be the first of a three-game series with Kentucky. The Wolverines were scheduled to host the Wildcats at Crisler Center in 2021 and travel to Rupp Arena in 2022.
After Wednesday’s postponement, the series will be delayed a year. The game in Lexington will be moved to 2023 to accommodate the London tilt being pushed back to December 2022. The teams will play in Ann Arbor as originally scheduled.
“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to go to London this season,” Calipari tweeted, “but I’m glad we were all able to come together, figure this out and preserve this series for the future.”
Fans who purchased a ticket for the overseas event will receive a full refund within 14 business days. Tickets for the 2022 game will go on sale in January or February of 2022.
The Basketball Hall of Fame is to pay Michigan $500,000 for playing in the London Showcase, per the terms of the game contract obtained by The Detroit News through a Freedom of Information Act request.