ALBANY — Two days after it finally released its 2020-21 schedule and 24 days before its opening game, the UAlbany men’s basketball team needed to push pause on its preseason.
The school’s athletic department announced Wednesday that it “has temporarily suspended all men’s basketball activities” after “an individual associated with the men’s team was part of a pool of tests that came back presumptively positive for COVID-19 during routine pooled surveillance testing.”
That means, for now, head coach Will Brown’s team is unable to practice after only starting workouts that included 5-on-5 segments and contact last week.
“They might not like it because they’re competitors,” Brown said Wednesday of his players, “but they completely understand it.”
The athletic department’s statement issued Wednesday regarding the suspension of men’s basketball activities, in part, reads: “This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution while the University awaits the results of diagnostic testing to confirm the result. The individual is currently in isolation, and no other teams’ activities are affected at this time. A determination on a resumption of basketball activity will be made pending additional test results.”
“The university has been tremendous in regards to our testing protocols,” Brown said. “They’ve been consistent with them. They’ve taken this very seriously.”
Both athletic director Mark Benson and Brown declined to specify the role of the “individual associated with the men’s team,” but Benson confirmed the men’s basketball team is not at the point where it needs to quarantine for at least two weeks, which is the NCAA’s recommendation for when a program has a player with a positive coronavirus test.
“We’re going to wait on [test] results and then work with our campus leadership,” Benson said.
“Just waiting for some more clarity,” Brown said. “I’m hopeful that in the next — well, you really can’t put a timeframe on it — but I’m hopeful that in the next 24 to 48 hours, that we get some further direction from our athletic administration and training staff. We’re just sitting tight right now.
Brown added: “We’re all just taking it minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.”
Team activities for the school’s women’s basketball program were not affected. Benson said “there’s no overlap” between when those teams use facilities, such as SEFCU Arena. Women’s basketball head coach Colleen Mullen said UAlbany facilities are sanitized after each team’s use, and that the basketball teams go as far as to use separate entrances and exits from each other to remove chances for contact between the programs.
“We’re doing a really good job of staying completely separate,” Mullen said Wednesday after her team’s practice.
In September, the NCAA moved the start of the college basketball season from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25 and reduced the number of games teams could play, shifts that forced programs to need to rework their schedules.
Earlier this year, all sports contests for UAlbany fall teams were postponed until next spring because of concerns related to the pandemic. Formal offseason workouts were originally scheduled to start for all sports on Aug. 31, but UAlbany delayed that start a week because of concern over large off-campus gatherings discovered to have occurred during the final weekend of August.
After each of the school’s athletic programs started activities on Sept. 7, UAlbany shut down all athletic activity on Sept. 11 because of a “very concerning spike” in COVID-19 cases among students, including “clusters . . . identified within athletics and in off-campus student housing.” The pause that started on Sept. 11 lasted for 24 days.
Other schools and programs, too, have experienced coronavirus-related pauses and shutdowns. That will continue, as the nation continues to grapple with a pandemic The New York Times reported resulted in 92,660 new cases on Tuesday.
“There’s a reason the NCAA decided to give all these players a free year of eligibility,” said Brown, referencing the recent NCAA decision to allow winter athletes an extra year of playing eligibility, regardless of how many competitions they participated in during the 2020-21 season.
Brown said he was “proud” of the way his program had followed safety procedures and protocols.
“But,” Brown said, “sometimes, some of this is out of your control.”