Barnes has questions about extra year of eligibility

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 22, 2020 at 11:00 AM

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has questions about senior basketball players who were denied the chance to play in the NCAA tournament being able to come back for a senior year.

During a press conference earlier in the week, the Vols coach was asked about the subject after the tournament was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The idea of an extra year has been mentioned by East Tennessee State coach Steve Forbes after his Bucs won the Southern Conference tournament. Others who have publicly supported the idea include Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his former player and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.

Barnes still has a lot of questions about how it would work, especially with the NCAA opting to not release a bracket for a hypothetical tournament.

“I have a lot of respect for Steve Forbes and East Tennessee State, in the fact that they had won their way into the NCAA tournament,” Barnes said. “But if you go back and you read (NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball) Danny Gavitt’s comments about the tournament, they hadn’t even bracketed it.

“So who are we talking about here? Some teams, their seasons are already over. How can you go back and decide by rule, who is the real representative from the SEC, from the ACC? By that bylaw, it’s the tournament champion. They say we’re not going to deal in hypotheticals, we’re not going to put a bracket out — so the line is where do you cut this off?”

Some of Barnes’ questions come from thinking his own team. His Vols were 17-14 with a Southeastern Conference tournament championship as the only hope of making the NCAA field. Still, with that glimmer of hope, would only players from tournament-eligible teams be able to come back or would it include players from the other teams who hadn’t finished their seasons.

“Does a guy like Jordan Bowden (come back)? Before we played that (SEC tournament) game, I don’t think we were in the NCAA tournament,” Barnes said. “There are a lot of seniors like that. If you’re going to say only the teams that (were) qualified at that time, that might be the ones you might say. But I can’t imagine any league in the country agreeing to something like that.

“We’re talking hypotheticals and I will go back to what Danny said. We’re not dealing in hypotheticals.”

Barnes understands where the extra year might come into play more with spring-sport athletes, who were less than halfway into their seasons. As for basketball, he pointed to the NCAA’s decision to say there would be an asterisk by the 2020 NCAA tournament.

He also pointed out getting through the current situation safely and helping others are more pressing issues at the moment.

“Everybody in college basketball that hadn’t played their last game, who knows how it would’ve unfolded,” he said. “Who knows who would’ve come through a tournament? There are so many things unknown that we could ever figure it out. Do you give it to every team? Do you give it to the ones that already lost? How do you do that?

“Right now, I don’t think that’s on anybody’s agenda. Whatever comes out of that, even though we’re a part of the NCAA, I think our real focus should be what’s happening in the country right now.”

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