In a series of guidelines issued Friday, the NCAA suggests testing players, coaches and officials for COVID-19 three times each week and limiting access to court and bench areas during the 2020-21 college basketball season, which is scheduled to begin on Nov. 25.
The guidelines also encourage schools to separate athletes and "essential basketball personnel" into an "inner bubble," or "Tier 1," to best monitor tracing and potential quarantine procedures in case of one or more positive tests for the coronavirus.
“This basketball resocialization guidance is based on the best information available in a rapidly changing COVID-19 environment," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “It is predicated on the assumption that rapid testing capabilities will be readily available later this year. We will constantly assess emerging information as we prepare for the start of the basketball season at the end of November.”
The guidelines were crafted by the Sport Science Institute in partnership with the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, which was formed in the spring to guide the organization's response to the pandemic.
In terms of testing, the suggested guidelines promote testing Tier 1 individuals three times weekly on non-consecutive days. The NCAA estimated that this group would consist of 15 players and 25-30 people overall.
In the case of a positive case among a Tier 1 individual, schools should consider placing the entire group under quarantine for 14 days, the NCAA said.
While the same group of Tier 1 players, coaches and support staffers do not need to practice social distancing while on the sidelines during a game, the guidelines suggest the bench "be physically separated from all other individuals who are not part of Tier 1."
For road games, the health and safety guidelines encourage schools to consider alternative options such as private cars or chartered planes; prepackaged meals or room service; same-day travel to avoid overnight stays; and limiting the overall size of the travel party, "ideally requiring they are not greater than 30 individuals."
Teams can begin countable activities on Sept. 21 before transitioning to preseason workouts on Oct. 14. The NCAA suggests testing weekly during the preseason period before increasing to three times per week during the regular season and postseason.
Follow USA TODAY Sports colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg
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