KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee head basketball coach Rick Barnes reiterated his disappointment on the choice by the Memphis athletic department to cancel Saturday’s game in Nashville. Here is everything he said about the Memphis cancellation from Monday’s presser at Thompson-Boling Arena.
On if he was given any additional explanation from Memphis after Saturday’s cancellation.
“I don’t know anything that happened from their point of view. All I want to do is hit it from our side. Fifteen of our 17 players are vaccinated, 88 percent. That includes every single one of our rotational players. Our guys want to play. From the beginning, I give a lot of credit to our administrative staff, making sure our guys understood the vaccination, what needed to happen there.”
“Now, going from this point forward, do you play the game or not, we were there to play the game. But with that said, right now, SEC play is way too important for us going forward. Plus we have the No. 1 NET-ranking team coming in here in two days. We’re not going to risk scheduling a team we know has many unvaccinated players. That would be irresponsible on our part. It could happen again. We wouldn’t do that, whether it would be Memphis or anybody else. We had people call us after the game, after the cancellation the other day, saying can you play tomorrow? If we had known earlier, we probably would have (scheduled a game for Sunday). But the question we would’ve asked, where are you with vaccination? I don’t think people call around and ask those questions unless they know they’re good there.”
“We burned approximately $30,000 from our budget. But to me, we obviously don’t want to do that, but the worst part is our fans. As bad as I felt for our players, I feel worse for our fans. We had a great turn out with our fanbase. We love going to Nashville. But I hurt for them, for the money they spent. Obviously they can get ticket (money) back, but all the other costs, they can’t get back. We had 12 games remaining against top-50 KenPom opponents. That ranking of those opponents equal 56.4 percent (of the remaining schedule). With that said, we’re focused on Arizona and getting ready for SEC play. To answer your question, we know nothing other than what you guys would tell us, or an article that somebody could write.”
On if they feel good about where they are with vaccination numbers, safeguarding against an outbreak.
“Here’s what I would tell you. Of our players, 15 are all there (vaccinated). We have on walk-on not vaccinated. One scholarship player being redshirted not (vaccinated). With that said, we’re going to play. Because we know in the SEC, you either play or you forfeit. I can only tell you this. If we only would’ve had four guys that were not able to play in that situation, if we’ve got seven guys, we would get somebody out of the student body if we had to. I think it’s the right thing to do for fans. I think it’s the right thing to do. And people say what about the game itself? I believe enough in the NCAA Tournament, the committee, where if you’re on that list, you’re there, they’re going to look back, they’re going to do their research. They’re going to know what went into that game. Just like I said the other day, I have great respect for what Rob Lanier did a couple weeks ago, taking his (Georgia State) team to play Rhode Island, a game he easily could’ve cancelled. But I think it showed just the kind of leadership that he had, leadership the school wanted from him — that he took his team up there with one starter and three rotational players and played a game. I would tell you, there is no doubt in my mind that Danny White would expect us to do the right thing. He would expect us to not only think about ourselves, but think about everybody involved and do the right thing. With that said, I can only speak from our point of view. Everybody else has to do what they feel they need to do.”
On if continuing the Memphis series is something he would consider in the future.
“Right now, again, that’s over and done with, with me, in terms of where we are. We left there and we’re focused and getting ready to play. I said it when I was over there, there’s absolutely no way we’re going to put that game into our schedule this year. We don’t have time for it. We play Wednesday, we come back, we get ready for the SEC. And once we get in the SEC (schedule), we’re going to worry about that, along with the fact that we have to go to Texas. The fact is, we were there. We were ready to play. Our guys were ready to play. The game didn’t happen. So, for now, I have nothing else to say about it.”