What Athletic Departments Should Know About a College Basketball Bubble Scenario


  • Tom McMillen, President & CEO, LEAD1 Association
  • Dimitri Roberts, Founder & CEO, SevenStar Consulting and Former CNN Anchor
  • Rhossi Carron, Manager, U-Sports Group
  • Dan Gavitt, Senior Vice President of Basketball, NCAA
  • Mark Turgeon, Men’s Head Basketball Coach, University of Maryland

Webinar Recap

On Thursday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted its latest virtual forum discussing a possible college basketball bubble scenario for the upcoming season. Over the past several months, the college sports world has witnessed some of the professional sports leagues in the U.S., such as the NBA, NHL, and WNBA successfully resume their seasons during COVID-19 inside of a bubble. So while some conferences have pulled the plug on a college football season (or at least postponed a season at this point), the college basketball world is considering a bubble environment, akin to what some of the professional sports leagues have already created.

The webinar, moderated by LEAD1 President & CEO, Tom McMillen, featured Dan Gavitt, the Senior Vice President of Basketball at the NCAA, Mark Turgeon, the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Maryland, Rhossi Carron, the first person to develop and publicly present a detailed college basketball bubble concept (Carron has already presented his concept to the NCAA and multiple schools), and Dimitri Roberts, a frequent CNN guest who is the founder and CEO of SevenStar, a technology company creating contactless interactions in the sports and law enforcement industries.

Carron opened the webinar by generally advocating for a bubble concept to maximize the health and safety of student-athletes (such as by mitigating the risk of outside interaction with people and keeping consistent COVID-19 testing protocols). Gavitt then alluded to next week’s NCAA Division I Council Meeting, which, among other things, will discuss the start date of the college basketball season (Gavitt stated that the Council will also discuss the “number of contests” requirement at this meeting). In this vein, Gavitt indicated that the start of the season would likely be the end of November or early December based on academic, health, and safety considerations, and that a bubble situation, at least for the start of college basketball, “makes sense.”

Turgeon discussed many of the unprecedented challenges that college basketball teams have faced due to the various implemented COVID-19 safety protocols. Turgeon, for example, stated that on his campus, restrictions have been placed on using institutional facilities, and playing 5-on-5 basketball, which has created a lot of “uncertainty” in preparing for a season. Turgeon, however, expressed a strong desire for his team to play this season especially for his player’s mental health, and seemed optimistic about such possibility. Turgeon does not think that the ACC’s recent proposal regarding an all-inclusive NCAA men’s basketball tournament is “realistic” because earning an NCAA tournament birth is “hard enough” and something that “should be earned.” Turgeon also made a novel point that, in the future, notwithstanding the pandemic, significant time and resources could be saved based on lessons learned operating in a virtual recruiting environment (such as by creating uniform requirements for using Zoom or alike platforms).

With respect to student-athlete mental health and well-being, Carron made the point that in addition to strictly basketball, any bubble environment should incorporate some non-basketball-related activities such as gaming competitions, bible study, billiard games (i.e., table tennis), and opportunities to talk about social justice issues, and learn about brand building. In addition, Carron alluded to an application that SevenStar (the webinar’s sponsor) has created, which can create contactless interactions between coaches and players in a bubble environment (see the recording for visuals). Carron also outlined some of the costs involved with creating a bubble noting hotel expenses, meals, testing, and entertainment. He mentioned that such costs may preclude some schools from participating.

More from Gavitt – He mentioned that the NCAA is expected to provide updated COVID-19 testing guidance later this month. He also commended the NBA for its testing and contact tracing programs. On the issue of game contracts, Gavitt stated that according to the NCAA’s legal interpretation, if the Division I Council were to move the start date of the season, some game contracts could likely fall outside the scope of NCAA rules (noting that most game contracts include provisions that all contests must be within the scope of NCAA rules). As a result, a team could, at least in theory, rescind a game contract for not being within NCAA rules. As an alternative, schools could, in good faith, move such games to another date. On the possibility of having fans in the stands, Gavitt stated that this would likely be determined by state and institutional regulations.

Finally, Roberts, as a former Chicago Police detective and Naval officer, concluded the webinar by focusing on social justice issues and some of the technological services his company, SevenStar, is creating to allow for better engagement with police officers in local communities. More on this, his aforementioned coaching application, and perspective on his “bubble-like” experiences as an officer can be found in the recording.

LEAD1 will continue to be the place to be for all things college basketball bubbles.