Cal Poly Men’s and Women’s Basketball each announced their schedules for the 2020-2021 season on Oct. 21, making them the first two Cal Poly athletic programs to resume their season’s competition after shutting down in March.
Men’s Basketball will begin their 28-game season on Nov. 25 at the U.S. Bank Pilot Invitational in Portland against the University of Portland. Women’s Basketball will open their 25 game campaign visiting Stanford University, who ranked in the top 10 in the AP poll last season.
Fans are still not allowed to attend the games in-person due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus and to minimize travel, the Big West adjusted the schedule for both men’s and women’s basketball programs. For this season, teams will play against the same opponent on consecutive days at one site, and the men’s and women’s schedules will mirror one another by playing the same opponent at opposite venues, according to a news release by the Big West.
The Big West also expanded the schedule from 16 games to 20 games after UC San Diego (making its Division I debut) and CSU Bakersfield were added as Big West members in the offseason.
Women’s Basketball head coach Faith Mimnaugh said that while she remains optimistic about the season, the added factors of playing during a pandemic also have her feeling weary heading into the season.
“This is just about the craziest thing I’ve ever been through as a coach,” Mimnaugh said.
The 2020-2021 season will mark Mimnaugh’s 24th year as head coach of the program. Last season, Mimnaugh and the Mustangs made it through to the Big West Conference Tournament semifinals until all sporting activities were shut down in March.
Despite the abrupt ending to their 2019-2020 season, Mimnaugh said being able to play through the season during this pandemic has kept the team in good spirits.
“When you’ve done something for so long, you often take it for granted at some point,” Mimnaugh said.
Mimnaugh also stressed the importance of being prepared to make last minute adjustments while playing through the pandemic.
“Teams have to be flexible during the season because everything about this virus is so hard to predict,” Mimnaugh said. “But we’re just so excited to play games and to have the opportunity to be on the court again after having seven months off.”
Men’s Basketball head coach John Smith shared similar sentiments as Mimnaugh about the unique circumstances of this basketball season caused by the pandemic.
“The uncertainties and unpredictably [of COVID-19] has caused a lot of angst,” Smith said. “So for us to know that we’re going to have a 28-game schedule is exciting and refreshing.”
Last season, Smith and the Mustangs finished last in the conference with an overall record of 7-23 (4-12 Big West). Entering his second year as head coach, Smith said he aims to continue building the team into a winning program following the additions of seven freshmen recruits.
“I thought we made huge strides last year as a program,” Smith said. “We’ve brought in seven freshmen that I think are going to help transform this culture to the level that we’re looking for to go along with the guys that are returning and the younger guys that we had played last year.”
Smith also said that it’s important for the team to remain committed to health and safety protocols throughout the season to avoid spreading the virus and to prevent any games from being canceled.
“The first thing is trying to get [the players] to understand the importance of following the guidelines and protocols 24 hours out of the day, not just in front of us,” Smith said.
Despite having to coach during unprecedented circumstances, both head coaches said they remain optimistic about the season and are prepared to make any necessary adjustments as the season progresses.
“This team is very close and they understand where we’re trying to go and we’re excited for the opportunity,” Smith said.