ESPN has abandoned its plan to hold eight basketball tournaments at an NBA-like bubble near Orlando over differences in enacting safety protocols regarding COVID-19, the network told The Athletic on Monday.
The decision impacts more than two dozen schools who were going to play in the ESPN-owned events.
"We've decided to redirect our efforts to be sure the teams have enough time to make other plans," Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, told The Athletic. "At the end of the day our bias was toward safety and making sure that what we pulled off was in the best interests of the sport. In the absence of those things, we decided we're better off letting schools do their own thing."
ESPN had been working on a plan to hold The Charleston Classic, Myrtle Beach Invitational, NIT Season Tip-Off, Wooden Legacy, Orlando Invitational and Diamond Head Classic at its Wide World of Sports property at Disney World, site of the NBA bubble. Those tournaments are now canceled.
ESPN is hoping to still play the Champions Classic and Jimmy V Classic at other locations, Overby told The Athletic.
At issue was an inability for ESPN to reach agreement with all of the schools on what the safety protocols should be to safely play the games. According to the report, ESPN's protocols were going to be more taxing than the conference's guidelines.
For example, ESPN would have required retesting any player who tested positive for COVID-19 again after being clear for 90 days.
"The 90-day testing protocol became the key sticking point," Overby told The Athletic. "Once we laid that out there were individual schools who couldn't agree because their conference rules are more open-ended with respect to when you test someone again who has contracted the virus."
Events televised but not owned by ESPN have been moved, with the Maui Invitational set for Asheville, N.C., and the Battle 4 Atlantis now in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
--Field Level Media