On Thursday evening, this popped up in the mentions of the Anonymous Eagle Twitter account.
@AnonymousEagle an update for the SBNation affiliate with the best VB coverage: Butler's schedule is out, which reveals a piece of MU's (plus likely games vs DePaul when Butler is playing Xavier). https://t.co/HG3k3n7s9d— VB Scores (@NCAAVBscores) July 30, 2020
And would you look at that, Butler’s schedule for women’s volleyball in the fall of 2020 is actually up on their website. Now, if you backtrack to their team front page to see if there’s a press release to go with it, fail to find one, and then click “Schedule” in order to go back to the 2020 slate, you end up on the 2019 schedule page. You can still filter the season to 2020 and end up there, so yep, it’s not just a weird vagary of the website that allows it to peek through as long as you have the direct link.
And so, we have four Marquette matches for the 2020 season. According to the Bulldogs, they’ll be in Milwaukee to play the Golden Eagles at the McGuire Center on October 17th and 18th, which is a Saturday and Sunday pairing. You’ll remember that the Big East has already announced regional divisional play for the 2020 fall sports season, which has Marquette playing two home games and two road games against the other four teams in their division for volleyball. The road trip to Indianapolis for Marquette comes in the final weekend of the regular season, as MU will visit Butler on November 20th and 21st, which is a Friday and Saturday pairing.
The pairing angle of this makes all the sense in the world, and it’s what I suspected would happen from the get-go. The move by the conference to go to regional divisions was to limit travel for sure, and it’s for some combination of reducing expenses or reducing a travel footprint for health reasons. Both things can be tied to the coronavirus pandemic, either because of money lost from the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament or just the general safety of the athletes and coaches making the trips.
We can also make some rough approximation guesses about a few other things about Marquette’s schedule. Butler is starting their 2020 season by hosting Creighton on September 26th and 27th, as the Big East already announced that there would be no non-conference action for any fall sports this year. It makes sense that Marquette would be starting their season on the same weekend. We can guess that they’ll be starting against either Xavier or DePaul, since those are the other teams in MU’s division. However, with a five team division, it’s not a perfect “everybody pair off for the weekend” situation, so that’s not 100%. In fact, Butler has the weekend off on October 3rd and 4th, and then again on November 7th and 8th. Presumably Marquette will be playing on those two weekends while taking a week off elsewhere on the docket as Team #5.
While I appreciate the tip from our friends running @NCAAVBscores (it appears that it’s someone from our Washington sister blog, UW Dawg Pound), and I like knowing things about what’s going on this fall. I presume that none of this matters. As our helpful tipster pointed out, it appears that Butler published this schedule page before Georgetown announced on Wednesday that they will be going to distance/virtual learning for the fall semester until further notice. Included in Georgetown’s press release on the fact that students will not be allowed on campus for in-person instruction to start the semester was the information that Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser has “extended emergency declarations” through October 9th and added travel restrictions to the emergency package. Anyone traveling to the District from the 27 states that are currently “high risk areas” has to quarantine for 14 days.
Without actually saying it, this cancels any and all Georgetown sporting events until at least October 9th. From GU’s press release on their fall semester changes, emphasis mine: “We will continue to monitor pandemic and public health conditions to determine when it may be possible to resume in-person courses and other in-person, on-campus activities.” Sports practices are definitely an in-person, on-campus activity, and they’re definitely secondary to being able to hold classes. If you can’t be on campus, you can’t practice, and you definitely can not host any games, much less gather to travel to any games.
Now, sure, with the regional divisional play, technically Georgetown’s move to virtual mode for the fall semester until further notice doesn’t actually affect Marquette and Butler. After all, Georgetown is in the other division. However, Big East commissioner Val Ackerman made her opinions on the matter very clear back in May:
Big East commish Val Ackerman addressed # of topics on conference call today:— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) May 8, 2020
- "If our campuses aren't open, we will not have athletes coming back"
- Decisions on bball seasons can wait until Sept. 1/Labor Day
- Re: basketball: "Proceeding right now as if it's business as usual"
Now, sure, you can interpret the commissioner’s words as “Georgetown will not have athletes on campus if they’re not open to students in general, but everyone else will, so we’ll just make a new schedule without the Hoyas.” That seems like a reasonable version, although I adhere to the idea of “if one school can’t go, we’re all not going.”
In addition to that, three Big East states are currently on Washington, D.C.’s list of high risk areas: Ohio, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. That covers three of the five teams in Marquette’s division, including the Golden Eagles. Counting Georgetown, as Washington, D.C., is considered a high risk area by states elsewhere in the country, that brings us to four of the 11 schools in the Big East, including three-fifths of one of the divisions that the league had assembled. If every team in the league adheres to the quarantine principles that Mayor Bowser has installed, it’s logistically impossible to even consider how the Big East can play anything resembling a fall sports schedule. Even a schedule that’s quickly reassembled right now without these four programs involved is at risk for being thrown out the door over the next two months, and once you’re starting to lose teams as the Big East has with Georgetown, what’s the point of even trying to stay ahead of the problem? Toss the whole thing out, and maybe think about trying to bring fall sports back around for a campaign during the spring semester. Multiple conferences — all ones that don’t have FBS football, just like the Big East — have already cancelled all fall sports, so it’s not like the Big East would be stepping way out of line here.
One final note, although it’s one that’s merely extrapolating from incomplete data as opposed to drawing a conclusion from known facts. I want to go back to that quote I included from Georgetown’s press release:
We will continue to monitor pandemic and public health conditions to determine when it may be possible to resume in-person courses and other in-person, on-campus activities.
The key phrases there are “continue to monitor” and “when it may be possible.” Last year, Marquette held Marquette Madness on October 4th, and that came after the basketball teams had already begun full team practices for the season. You will note that Washington, D.C.’s emergency declarations extend past October 4th. I think that makes it reasonable to conclude that Georgetown will not being holding any in-person, on-campus activities until at least October 9th, well after basketball practices should have started under normal conditions. If that’s the case, then for all of the reasons that it will be impossible to have a fall sports schedule, we can officially go ahead and hit the big ol’ red danger alarm button for the 2020-21 basketball season.