The Basketball Tournament, an event that has featured former college stars and overseas standouts competing for a seven-figure prize, will proceed this summer with the assistance of a comprehensive health and safety plan to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading the coronavirus, organizers announced Wednesday.
Keys to the plan will be multiple rounds of testing for competitors before entering a sanitized venue, separating the participants and eliminating a team if one of its players tests positive.
Starting in July, the TBT says it will host a 24-team, single-elimination tournament at a location to be determined, which organizers are calling "inner island," a quarantined "campus." Organizers are considering multiple locations.
Jonathan Mugar, the event's founder, said they are looking at cities with local officials who are willing to "partner" with the event.
"We feel we can absolutely put on a fun and safe event," Mugar said.
Staffers intend to monitor players' social media accounts and ask them to use contact tracing apps, where available, to ensure they are complying with the event's health and safety plan.
Last year, Carmen's Crew, a team anchored by former Ohio State stars Aaron Craft and William Buford, defeated the Golden Eagles, a group of Marquette alumni, in the title game in Chicago to win the $2 million prize. Organizers have not determined the payout for this year's event, Mugar said.
Mugar anticipates fewer than 400 athletes, staffers, medical professionals and TV personnel housed on the quarantined campus, but no more than 50 in the actual gym when games will happen. It's not a physical bubble, but anyone inside its confines must adhere to the TBT's health and safety plan to enter.
"The implication is where people are staying, where staff is meeting, where players are practicing and the competition is taking place is all happening in a place we're calling 'inner island,'" Mugar said.
Athletes will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before traveling to the location of the event. Two or three days before traveling, they will take a COVID-19 test. If the results are negative, they will then travel to the location and will take another test upon arrival.
If that test is positive for a player, his entire team will be disqualified and sent home.
All teams that test negative for the virus will be allowed to enter the "inner island" and begin preparation for competition, but every athlete will take another test five days after entry. That's three tests in just over a week for each participant, according to organizers.
Teams will not see one another before competition, and the losers of each game will immediately exit the campus and undergo screening before returning home.
Event adviser Tara Kirk Sell, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist in swimming who now studies pandemic preparedness as the senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said other sports leagues could mimic TBT's plan to eliminate any team if one of its players tests positive.
"You get one positive on a team and you get decent chances you could have another positive on the team, and then you could have other teams that won't want to play them," Sell said. "Most of these sports are going to have to have a backup plan if you end up with a positive."