BELTON, Texas- On Wednesday afternoon, the expected, yet frustrating decision was made by the NCAA “as the result of an Administrative Council meeting”. All D3 winter sport championships, including the men’s and women’s basketball national tournaments, are canceled.
For months, it had been speculated that less than 60 percent of all D3 institutions were playing basketball this season, and this would be the fate of the tournaments. It even spurred us to ask both UMHB head basketball coaches how they were handling the uncertainty regarding the future of the tournaments in 2021. However, those were just assumptions, suggestions, opinions. Now, the cancellation is a reality.
This is an especially tough blow for the Cru, as the men are currently 6-0 in conference play and the women are fighting for the top spot in the west division with a 4-3 ASC record.
But as UMHB women’s basketball head coach Mark Morefield said Wednesday night, “all is not lost”.
That is the bottom line moving forward for both teams, despite obvious disappointment and sadness regarding what some would categorize as a missed opportunity. Or rather, an opportunity that was taken away.
“They’re disappointed like everybody else,” said UMHB men’s basketball head coach Clif Carroll in speaking about his team. “You come play at Mary Hardin-Baylor for a chance to win a national championship. So obviously, there’s going to be a little bit of disappointment, but when you take that off the table, we still have a lot to play for. We still have goals on the table so we can’t let this setback derail the whole thing.”
“We can’t let it bother us,” said Morefield. “And here’s the flip side. You tell those younger ones, ‘Here’s the great thing, you’re not losing a year. This year is a year for you to get better’. You are still playing for division title, you’re still playing for a conference title, you’re still playing for a conference tournament title, and there are possibilities of other postseason avenues, so all is not lost.”
In December, the NCAA had made it clear that at least 60 percent of D3 programs had to be playing in order for the tournaments to be played, and those teams needed to play at least nine games. As of Wednesday, the NCAA said that it found in its survey that 50.4 percent of men’s programs and 53.8 percent of women’s programs would be ineligible for postseason play.
Where does that leave programs such as UMHB? The ASC is still set to have its conference tournaments, and both teams still have eight games left in the regular season. But for the coaches, how do you get your team motivated with the chances of a national title taken away?
“There may not be an NCAA tournament, but we’re still playing for a division title, we’re still playing for a conference tournament title, and I’m pretty confident that we will get some type of postseason competition,” said Morefield. “Just because this has happened, there is still a lot to play for.”
“We just talked about our process, and we try to stay focused on today,” said Carroll. “The old saying, ‘You got to be where your feet are’ applies to this. We can’t worry about yesterday, we can’t worry about tomorrow. We still have goals we want to reach, there’s still things out there that we want to win.”
Not only is the ASC Championship still on the line but there a numerous options for postseason play as well. As mentioned in our previous article, there has been talk of getting several teams from within the state together for a mini-tournament. Another avenue is the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCAA) tournament, which features a wide range of competition, from NAIA to D2 programs.
“I think as long as there are opportunities to play, the girls want to play,” said Morefield.
“Not having a national championship sucks but we’re looking at other options,” said Carroll. “With the uncertainty of the year, I saved three games, so that if this did happen, we could play after the ‘season’ is over. I was amazed at how many coaches reached out to me from across the country today, because Texas is one of the more open states. We’re going to have to talk about it with the administration, but I think there’s going to be an opportunity to play postseason basketball.”