The Atlantic 10 Conference unveiled its schedules on Wednesday morning. The University of Massachusetts will play its first league home game on Wednesday, Dec. 30, against the George Mason Patriots of former Williams College coach Dave Paulsen.
The overriding question, however, is: Will there be fans?
“No,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in response.
“Right now, at least through the end of the calendar year,” Bamford said, when asked how long that could be. “We’re totally dependent on what the [Massachusetts] state regulations are, and we’re not out of Phase 3, in terms of live events. In fact, it looks like we’re going in the other direction right now.
“We’re not going to have fans, and we’re not going to have [player] families or friends or anything like that.”
Bamford did say that as of early in the week, he had no idea if media members would be allowed in to the Mullins Center for games.
“I hadn’t even thought about that, to be candid,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to have anybody but essential game personnel there. That means, maybe even yours truly, they won’t even allow me in. I’m going to have to watch it from my office.”
Bamford said UMass has scheduled eight non-conference games, with four of them in the multi-team event inside the “bubble” at Mohegan Sun. The Minutemen will play Siena and Delaware, as previously announced. Multiple published reports have said the Minutemen will also play Iona — coached by Hall-of-Famer and UMass alum Rick Pitino — and South Florida, inside the bubble.
Seven UMass games will, as of now, be on national television. That starts with a game at Saint Louis on Jan. 2, in a game on NBCSN. A Jan. 9 home game against La Salle and a Jan. 17 road game at Fordham will also be on NBCSN. The CBS Sports Network will televise a home game against Davidson on Jan. 24.
In February, Dayton will visit Amherst on Feb. 9, for a game on ESPN, while the home game against St. Bonaventure on Feb. 14 will be on NBCSN. A game at Rhode Island on Feb. 9 will be on national television, but the network has not been determined.
The Jan. 2 game at Saint Louis will start at 6:30 p.m., while the Jan. 9 La Salle game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. tip. The Fordham game is penciled in at 4:30 p.m., while the Feb. 14 home game against St. Bonaventure has a 2 p.m. start.
In a video conference with reporters Wednesday morning, Atlantic 10 Conference commissioner Bernadette McGlade was asked about the difficulties of putting a schedule together.
”I need a calculator to answer that question,” McGlade said. “As you can imagine, with 14 teams and a 18-game conference schedule, and also we considered the possibility of punching up the schedule, going to 20 games or maybe going to 22 games.”
McGlade said that she and her staff considered every possibility, from bubbles to home series.
”We looked at playing back-to-back,” she said. “But playing back-to-back at the same site, from our national perspective, didn’t seem like an optimal decision. In addition to that, our partnership with our three national media partners, the ability for us to be able to fulfil those contractual obligations and try to build a schedule as similar as possible to maintain what we call ‘mirror games,’ so your rivalry teams aren’t playing each other on Friday and Saturday. There’s a mirror and there’s a three or four week length of time in between those games. We tried to be really sensitive to our media partners, the needs of our campuses and their facilities, and also what COVID was dictating in terms of different hot spots around the regions of our league.
”We easily had 10, 12, 14 different combinations of schedules. We did little pods. We did big pods. We looked at a bubble, bringing everybody into the same place. We kind of ran the gamut.”