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Barnes: ‘We have to get football going first’ in order to figure out the 2020 basketball season

Measured words from the Vols’ head coach.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking news: The Coronavirus is still affecting future plans for collegiate sports.

With all the questions surrounding the remaining three P5 conferences, many have turned their attention to the upcoming basketball season. Will we see a reduction in games? Will there be no fans in the stands? How will team travel work?

Rick Barnes was asked about that on Monday and as usual, his response was a well-measured and logical.

“From where I sit and this is my opinion, we have to get football going first,” Barnes told reporters via Zoom on Monday. “I don’t even think with basketball, obviously as a conference, we have been talking about certain things and not anything drastic to be honest with you. I think it is so important we see these next couple weeks how it goes with students being back on campus. We have to get football up and going. That is the first and foremost thing. Depending on how that goes, we will come up with plans. There is no doubt.

“Our first game wouldn’t be until November,” Barnes continued. “I don’t know why we don’t wait as long as we possibly can. I just believe that maybe being an optimist that we are going to go on time. What might happen with some of the places where we might have tournaments like New York or Charleston, those kind of places. There has been dialogue about moving those to Orlando. There are a lot of teams that are in those that are going to lose games because the other team is not starting until January.

“I think if football goes well, I think some of these schools will reconsider. Understand that when the Big 10 made their announcement, we got a call the very next day from Wisconsin saying we are planning on playing here in our opener. We will wait and see.”

There’s a lot at stake if the Vols don’t have a season. Tennessee returns almost every starter from last year’s team and finished in the top-five when it comes to recruiting in 2020. Athleticism and youth combined with senior experience, leadership, and depth could push the Vols deep into the NCAA tournament this year.

So it’s understandable if Barnes’ response is a tough pill to swallow for Vols fans, but waiting to see what happens with football is the right way to go. The NFL is currently showing that if players buy in to social distancing and the proper methods to avoid COVID-19, then a season can happen. But this is obviously different when dealing with teenagers and kids in their early 20s.