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Dec. 26, 2020 — Duke’s cessation is not a good sign for NCAA basketball in either gender

Yesterday, it was announced that the Duke women’s basketball team, a side which was expected to contend for ACC honors with new head coach Kara Lawson, would end its season after playing just four games.

It had been 10 days ago when Duke’s women put a pause on games and other activities when two members of the team’s travel party (the exact identities or roles remain a mystery) tested positive for COVID-19. The pause came five days after one of Duke’s opponents, Louisville University, had a positive test within its ranks.

After that game, Lawson came out and made a single devastating statement: “I don’t think we should be playing right now.” And according to numerous reports, players on the Duke women’s team were the thought leaders in closing down the season.

Duke is a prominent team, making the Final Four four times between 1999 and 2006. Too, the ACC is a prominent conference in both men’s and women’s basketball, as member teams have won the NCAA Division I tournament on numerous occasions.

The Duke women are the first team amongst the so-called Power Five conferences to opt out of playing basketball. But they are certainly not alone in not playing. A handful of schools on the men’s side, including Siena and Merrimack, have not even played a game yet because of Coronavirus. Virginia State, a historically-Black university, has cancelled both its men’s and women’s basketball seasons.

Too, a number of conferences in all three NCAA divisions, including the Ivy League, the North East Athletic Conference, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, and the Midwest Conference have already decided not to play.

But what should give you pause are the words of the men’s basketball coach at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski. After a game this year, he offered his take on playing sports during the global pandemic: “I would just like for the safety, the mental and physical health of players and staff to assess where we’re at.”

This is a Naismith Hall-of-Famer who has taken the last three U.S. men’s Olympic basketball teams to gold medals, the first coach to do so. I have a feeling that, if the Duke men were to follow the lead of the women, it could have a ripple effect on not only Division I basketball, but all of college sports.

And all this less than a week before the start of the billion-dollar College Football Playoff begins.

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