Jason Shay new mug

Jason Shay

East Tennessee State men’s basketball coach Jason Shay spent much of his weekly Zoom call with the media Thursday laying out the details of a potential nonconference “bubble” tournament the university has been planning.

The bubble is a backup plan should the NCAA scrap nonconference play when it announces its decision on the start of the season Wednesday.

The NCAA is expected to announce the start date — widely thought to be Nov. 25 — and the minimum and maximum amount of games allowed.

The season was originally scheduled to start Nov. 10.

“Nonconference games are impor- tant,” Shay said. “We’re just trying to come up with an alternative way that we can play games. We’ve been working through the logistics and everything that goes into hosting a bubble and trying to keep it as cost-effective as we can.”

Shay said the bubble would ideally include 8-10 teams and would last 10 days. Each team would play five games and he hopes all the games would be played on campus, with three courts set up in the MiniDome and the courts in the Center for Physical Activity and Brooks Gym being used as practice courts or for games.

Many teams have been contacted and Shay said there was plenty of interest.

Shay emphasized the bubble wouldn’t be necessary if the NCAA allows teams to stick with the nonconference schedules they have put together.

“There wouldn’t be as much chaos if we could just start games we have scheduled from Nov. 25 and then the games we had scheduled prior to that, you can try and squeeze in before conference play, the first of January,” he said.


The Atlantic Coast Conference coaches endorsed a plan to have every NCAA Division I team invited to the NCAA Tournament this season. Former ETSU coach Steve Forbes, now at Wake Forest, was among those calling for the plan.

“That’s pretty crazy,” Shay said when asked about the idea. “How are you going to go through 346 teams? How is that going to work? It’s just a logistics nightmare.

“I don’t see how that would work, but I’m not opposed to it.”


The Bucs’ final player, Richard Amaefule, was expected to arrive on campus Thursday night and will join the team as soon as he passes his coronavirus test.

Amaefule, a 6-foot-9 forward, was coming in from his home in England.


When Shay began his coaching career, he could have never envisioned his first year as a head coach would include what this one has.

“I talked to my dad about that,” he said. “It’s a tough start to be a first-year head coach and to deal with COVID and protocol and are you going to play, aren’t you going to play. I want to just coach basketball and help my team and my players be the best players and people they can be. But this is the cards I’ve been dealt and I’m just trying to work the best I can to give them a season they are proud of.”

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