The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, July 1, 2020

Where the WNBA return stands — Geno Auriemma talks UConn — Must-click women's basketball links

(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. In this moment, freelance budgets have been cut, reporters are losing their jobs. Women’s sports always bears the brunt of that first.

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Where the WNBA return stands

Well, you’re probably wondering where the WNBA rosters are, right? After all, June 25 was the opt out deadline.

Yep, I was too, so I’ve spent today once again talking to lots of folks who would know. The short answer: don’t spend a lot of time expecting a single, clean, league-wide release anytime soon.

Think about it this way: you had players opt out by the June 25 deadline. Then there are players who are going through a medical protocol to determine whether they are high-risk, and thus, can be excused absences (paid if they opt out).

But wait, there’s more! Those players may want to play! So once they know if salary is not a sticking point, then they have a decision to make. Hypothetically, do you really think the league is going to create a deadline forcing Elena Delle Donne, for instance, to decide? And then, if she wanted in after the deadline, that she’d be banned from participating? (They wouldn’t, but also, that would be a TERRIBLE idea.)

Even beyond that, there are additional moving parts. Players who haven’t opted out by June 25 aren’t going to be forced to opt in — as one league source put it, “We’re not strapping anybody to the wing of a plane.” So the real deadline for even those players is when teams board flights or buses to Bradenton.

And that date? Well, it’s been previously reported as July 6, but multiple league sources tell me even that hasn’t been agreed to and set yet, either. Even then: one league source said it is extremely doubtful that if a player, already in Bradenton, decided to leave, that the league would do something like clawback salary or discipline her. The optics on it would be horrible, that’s for sure.

Now, let’s be clear: this is all entirely unprecedented, and calls for flexibility. It is to Cathy Engelbert’s credit that this is a moving target, and failing to operate that way could trigger a chain reaction of mass defections that would throw the league’s precarious season into an unrecoverable place.

That said: the league should probably let people know — fans, media, etc. — in a straightforward way when to expect things like who is playing and when teams will arrive in Bradenton. Transparency, alongside this flexibility, would go a long way with everybody.

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This week in women’s basketball

Jenn Hatfield caught up with Harvard’s Suzie Miller.

Renee Montgomery joined Burn It All Down.

Charlotte Carroll delves into the way the Connecticut Sun have embraced social justice.

John W. Davis spoke to Brittney Sykes about her decision to play.

Layshia Clarendon breaks down the state of the racial justice movement. Must-read.

Barbara Barker looks at what Walt Hopkins brings to the Liberty.

Brandon Sudge has started a Georgia women’s basketball newsletter.

Megan Gauer explains just how much harder the Big East will be for UConn than the AAC.

Jacob Mox keeps on explaining the new CBA, this time focusing on max salaries.

The Washington Mystics had a socially distant ring ceremony.

Babe Didrikson had an underappreciated basketball career.

Cheryl Reeve is ready to go to Bradenton.

Jason Terry loves the newest Mississippi State recruit, Jasmine Shavers.

Natalie Heavren gets you caught up on the Connecticut Sun, post-JJ.

Dorothy Gentry looks at the unity of Mississippi coaches who came together on the confederate flag fight.

Don’t miss Jackie Powell on Amanda Zahui B.

Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Geno Auriemma

Geno joined reporters to discuss what would normally be a primary July story, that UConn has returned to the Big East, where it belongs. Anyhow, when we get sports back, I’m going to be talking about this a lot.

QUESTION: You’re back in the Big East officially, coach. How does it feel?

GENO AURIEMMA: I don’t know I don’t think today feels any different than the yesterday it’s almost like I’ve I’ve kind of felt like we were in the conference from the time we had you know, the press conference in New York City. I kinda like felt like that was the day that we officially joined the Big East even though I know today, you know, is the official day but it just felt like all this time that we’ve actually been in the league and but now that it’s official, I mean, I guess there’s no going back. They can’t change their mind.

QUESTION: With with the virus flaring up around the country, how confident are you that there will actually be a season? And what are you telling your players in terms of preparation right now?

GENO AURIEMMA: Well, I’m not confident on anything anymore.

You know, a month ago, I thought: we’re on the right track. Things are great. You know, we’ve we’ve done all the right things here in Connecticut. You know, we’re in the process of bringing our players back. Hopefully by the end of July. And then each week since then, it seems like there’s one more place that setting records.

I don’t know what to think anymore… if they’ve figured out a way to do college football, which they’re going to leave no stones unturned to get that back and believe me, then you know, we’ll be okay. But if they don’t, then all bets are off for everybody.

…We’re planning is if it’s going to happen. We’re going to have a you know, a normal start the school at the end of August but With each week that goes by, I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I just saw… flying from certain states is going to be, it’s going to be very problematic.

Everybody’s going to do their own thing, how to even know you can be able to fly all your players in, depending on where they live. You know, school starts, are certain teams gonna come here and play if they come from a state that’s been severely impacted? I don’t know. I don’t I don’t know any of these things. I mean, I don’t know anything about anything. I could be president.

QUESTION: Do you know do you think you’ll be able to get down to the business of getting your team ready like you usually do? Or are there just too many other things that are going to change day to day that’s going to take you off the focus of the way you do business?

GENO AURIEMMA: Well, it’s already changed. I mean, everything’s changed. Everything’s different every day, there’s new guidelines or there’s new protocols, new recommendations, requirements, what you can and can’t do, how you get into the building. What you can do when you’re in the building. The program at UConn was meant to be a pilot program, kind of a test run before you know, more student athletes arrive.

So, Men’s Basketball is already there. We’re scheduled to come in at the end of July because that’s the decision that I made — like I don’t want to be up here any earlier. You can’t work with the players until July 20 anyway, so why bring them in? And then the football team is going to start arriving. So that adds another layer to it. And then soccer and field hockey and women’s soccer and you name it.

People are going to start arriving on campus. And so we were supposed to be apilot program. And all seemed like a great idea and it still does. But even when school starts, it’s not going to be the same. Recruiting is not the same. You know, hey, we want to do a home visit. No. I mean, what are you going to do? Hey, we want you to come up on campus? No.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.