‘We are united’: ACC proposes letting all eligible Division I basketball teams qualify for NCAA Tournament

The 2021 NCAA Tournament would be the biggest of all time if the Atlantic Coast Conference’s new proposal comes to fruition.

Coaches from the ACC have unanimously proposed a plan to allow all postseason-eligible Division I basketball programs to qualify for the Big Dance.

“As ACC head coaches, we strongly believe it’s in the game’s best interest to have an all inclusive 2021 NCAA Tournament,” Louisville head coach Chris Mack said in a statement. Other ACC coaches are expected to release similar statements.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the sports world to a halt in March. The NCAA canceled all postseason tournaments, just as the men’s basketball tournament was set to get underway.

As the fall sports season rolled around, uncertainty in collegiate athletics persisted. Many conferences opted to postpone football season until the spring.

The NCAA March Madness logo on the floor during the NCAA Basketball First round practice session at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The fate of winter and spring sports hasn’t been determined, but Mack said ACC coaches met for the last 21 weeks discussing options for college basketball in 2020-21. 

“The safety of out players is paramount. The ability to incentivize the regular season without mandating a select number of non-conference and conference games provides options and flexibility for all member institutions,” Mack’s statement read.

According to Stadium, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski spearheaded the proposal that would allow 346 of the 357 Division I squads to qualify. 

Seven are ineligible due to reclassification. Three wouldn’t be allowed to play due to Academic Progress Rate violations. Oklahoma State would not be eligible.

The proposal would turn conference tournaments into the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Should the proposal be enacted, many conferences would have to alter their tournament qualification rules.

This story was reported from Atlanta.