CARBONDALE — Valparaiso men's basketball coach Matt Lottich is not sure what he will do if Indiana is still on the travel quarantine list for Chicago when the Crusaders are scheduled to go play Loyola on Jan. 30. Loyola's Porter Moser is wondering the same thing if his team will have to self-quarantine for 14 days after going to Valparaiso Jan. 2.
Indiana joined Chicago's travel quarantine list Tuesday, meaning anyone who went to Indiana and returned to Chicago is asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. Iowa and Missouri are already on the list. And those are the small issues facing the Missouri Valley Conference's return to competition next month. A positive COVID-19 test could knock a player out for 10 days if symptoms never develop, per NCAA and CDC guidelines, and possibly up to 20 days, or longer, if symptoms persist. The virus has already postponed or canceled 31 major college football games entering this weekend, and Valley teams may have up to three games within a seven-day period once conference play begins Dec. 30.
"The teams that follow the protocols the best, and you're gonna have to have some luck; we know we have a tough road ahead of us but we're going to stay positive," Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. "We're going to try to be leaders in the community and lead by example, and we know we're going to have to deal with adversity."
MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin took an optimistic tone to the season.
"First of all, the technology and the testing protocols have really improved," Elgin said. "The reliability, the affordability of these tests is going to make it a lot easier for teams in the Missouri Valley to reach the standards that the NCAA has put forward as recommendations, and I think we've got a great team here at the Missouri Valley that's trying to lead the way with our conference on COVID and on testing protocols and how we will proceed with the season if there is an interruption in play. I feel really good about where we are right now. I've really become optimistic that we're going to be able to navigate the season."
A week before the season begins, all Division I teams intending to play are being asked to test their players and staff three times a week, according to the NCAA's latest protocols released in late September. The tests can't be run on consecutive days, in order to try to catch athletes or staff that test negative one day but are positive the next. Then it will be a race to contain the spread, and the quarantine's web. Anybody with close contact with someone who tests positive will have to quarantine for two weeks.
In an effort to get as many teams as possible as close as possible to 18 league games, Elgin said league officials have discussed having the closest teams play an additional conference game.
"We will pivot as we have to during the regular season if there are interruptions. We're looking at several models, several contingency plans that we would activate in the event that we have to," Elgin said. "It might not be fair and consistent across the league. Some teams may play another opponent one time. Some teams may eventually play an opponent twice, or even three times, but what we're going to do, if we have to in February, to find a way to play the maximum amount of games and limit travel as much as possible."
On Twitter: @THefferman
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