Amid a Local Outbreak, a Historically Black University Cancels Basketball Season

ESPN this week canceled eight men’s basketball tournaments it was planning to conduct with 22 teams at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., where the N.B.A. had its playoffs at a restricted site. The events were canceled after programs balked at some of ESPN’s health and safety measures, which were more stringent than those of universities and conferences. According to CBS Sports, one proposed requirement was that anyone in a team’s traveling party who tested positive had to be isolated in the Orlando area for 14 days at the university’s expense.

Four weeks before the start of the season, the Seton Hall men’s basketball team knows the dates and locations of five games on its schedule, all in December.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘disaster’ because that would be too light a term,” Seton Hall’s coach, Kevin Willard, said Wednesday on a Big East Conference call, before settling on a descriptor that included an expletive. The conference’s commissioner, Val Ackerman, said that she hoped the rest of the 20-game conference schedule would be released in a month, and that while the conference teams in the Northeast could travel by bus as usual, the ones that are farther afield — Xavier, Creighton and Marquette, for example — could play games in a quasi-bubble.

The season’s tentative nature is driven home by the rise in virus cases, which have grown by 41 percent nationally over the last two weeks to a daily average of more than 75,000 cases — a development that was largely expected by infectious disease experts as the weather turned chilly and more people stayed indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

Then there are places like Daytona Beach, where Bethune-Cookman sits and where tens of thousands of visitors arrived the last two weekends for Biketoberfest and Trucktoberfest events despite city commissioners not granting permits for vendors or live music. The transient population will only increase in the coming months as snowbirds arrive.

Weeks ago, when the parents of Imani Reid, a sophomore forward on the Bethune-Cookman women’s basketball team, arrived from Columbia, Md., to check on their daughter after she had been involved in a car accident. Shortly after they arrived home, her mother became sick with the virus. Reid’s father and younger brother also contracted it, as did her grandparents, great-grandmother and great-aunt, though they were largely asymptomatic.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” said Reid, who was hoping to impress the coaches with her development since last season, when Bethune-Cookman won a share of the conference title for the fourth time in five seasons. But she is also viewing the decision to halt the season as a sign of providence. The meeting, she said, was emotional — particularly for the three seniors, one of whom, Amaya Scott, was voted the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s preseason player of the year.

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