MAC Basketball Tournament will look different in 2021

Conference is reducing teams, but still counting on spectators during pandemic

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The MAC basketball tournament is an annual tradition here in Cleveland, but last March, like everything else, it was wiped out.

This year, they’re coming back, but with only 8 teams.

”You know, we’ve talked about that for a number of years,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher told me during a zoom interview. “Certainly, this year it makes some sense to do that.”

Akron and Kent State will certainly make it in the Men’s bracket, with the Golden Flashes also earning a spot in the Women’s bracket.

But both sides are crowded with good teams, and with almost a month to go, who knows?

”The challenge for all the teams and the coaches, it isn’t a normal year, and I think it’s exacerbated this year” Steinbrecher said. “It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint, and the ability to sustain a high level of play all across the season is really challenging with all the, I don’t know if ‘hurdles’ is the word I would use, but there’s a lot of stuff you’ve got to navigate.”

As for fans, it’s looking like just a few thousand will be allowed. Family members only for the quarterfinals, but after that, it’s open, and tickets are on sale for the final two rounds.

Any step forward is a giant step forward for a conference that, like many others, took a huge hit financially in 2020. It will take time to recover.

”I think this is a two, three, four-plus year process of digging out of this from a financial perspective,” Steinbrecher said. “And I would say that’s for not only intercollegiate athletics, I’d say that for higher education. Probably for any number of businesses, right?”

He’s right. He’s also optimistic that this year will be far better than last year. And that includes the tournament.

“Absolutely,” Steinbrecher said. “Count on it.”

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