Marching into Madness: How the Seminoles are preparing for first tournament under COVID precautions

Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 11:04 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The wait is over.

It has been two years since the last March Madness tournament. The COVID era has turned tournament time into a whole new ball game with team administrators jumping through hoops to keep up with logistics.

“We are dancing to the beat of the NCAA drum and, believe me, we are not going to miss a step,” said Florida State University Men’s Basketball Head Coach Leonard Hamilton during a Zoom call Monday afternoon.

Hamilton was quarantining inside his hotel room in Indianapolis, Indiana, ahead of the start of the tournament. The men’s team arrived on Sunday and are required to be quarantined for 48 hours before they will be allowed to practice.

Teammates and staff will all also need two negative COVID tests prior to the start of the tournament.

It takes a team behind-the-scenes to help the players stay safe and organized while adhering to COVID protocols.

“I call them auditables. Every hour there’s an auditable - a change. A move to just try to keep everybody on the up and up,” said director of operations Jarrod Lazarus.

Lazaruss says there are normally many moving parts when it comes to planning for team travel, but this year it is amplified due to strict pandemic regulations. He is helping to coordinate every aspect for the 38-person travel party, from transportation to police escorts, even keeping those sweaty jerseys smelling fresh while out on the road.

“As funny as this sounds, when I found out we’re gonna go from the ACC tournament to the NCAA tournament, the first thing I thought about was laundry,” he told WCTV’s Katie Kaplan.

He says he has relied on all resources to keep up with the travel party’s needs since they went directly from the ACC tournament to the NCAA without a return trip to Tallahassee.

The mandatory quarantine also means that all meals have to be delivered directly to the players’ rooms.

It will be the same for the women’s program once they arrive in San Antonio on Wednesday night for the competition.

“It’s not easy,” said Sports Information Director Stephen Stone, who handles the FSU women’s basketball program. “It takes a lot of patience from an entire community of people to deal with the challenges we’ve faced this year.”

He said patience is something the program has been practicing all season, only playing 18 out of 26 scheduled games due to covid complications, mostly within other programs.

Stone said he has been COVID testing the players in Tallahassee every day for the last week in advance of the tournament, but had to wait until Monday night’s selection show before he could put a travel plan in place.

While this year will not be the true tournament experience- no team dinners, no sight-seeing,-FSU is making the best of it; keeping in mind that the main goal is to stay healthy and win.

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