Big changes afoot after NCAA issues new guidelines to start basketball season

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah celebrates their overtime win over Stanford 64-56 as they light up the U in NCAA menÕs basketball, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.

Thanksgiving preparations this year will include college basketball.

The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday voted to begin the 2020-21 season on Nov. 25, which is Thanksgiving Eve, not to mention 15 days later than the originally-scheduled start date of Nov. 10. A start date of Nov. 21 had reportedly been recommended by the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees, but the D1 Council has the ability to override recommendations.

Given the normal 42-day preseason, Division I teams scheduling Nov. 25 openers can begin practicing on Oct. 14.

In addition to the start date and the lack of scrimmages and exhibitions, the Division I Council set the maximum number of games allowed at 27, a reduction of four, and the minimum number of games at 13.

Nov. 25 may be green-lit as the start date, but that can still change. The Division I Council will meet next on Oct. 13, at which point it can shift things if it deems it necessary because of COVID-19 concerns.

Teams and leagues are expected to start moving expeditiously in terms of pulling schedules together. The Pac-12 was originally set to play a 20-game schedule for the first time, but that will be up for discussion. Models containing 22- and 24-game conference slates have been on the table in recent months as contingency plans.

Also on Wednesday, the D1 Council voted to schedule the FCS Playoffs from April 18-May 15, while moving from 24 football teams down to 16. That framework will go before the Division I Board of Directors next week. Weber State was voted as the favorite to win the Big Sky over the summer and figured to be a top-4 team nationally. Southern Utah also plays in the Big Sky, while Dixie State was getting ready to start its first Division I season as an FCS independent.