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Of hoops, masks and BU's unwillingness to help

Connecticut high school basketball coaches will encounter a number of uncommon, COVID-related details in the coming weeks, not the least of which is this: The potential conflict between properly conditioning their players while the kids navigate the uncertainty of wearing masks during aerobic activity.

And so I thought it prudent to reach out to Montville High grad Mike Quinn, an assistant coach at Boston University, for some advice to share on the matter. The BU players, per school mandate, are wearing masks this season, one of the few programs in the country to do so.

I texted Mike one day last week. He responded happily and promptly, asking only that I adhere to the school protocol of setting up all interviews through the sports information department.

It sounded and felt pro forma.

I sent an e-mail to Scott Ellis, the Associate Athletic Director for Athletic Communications detailing my plan. I received the following reply:

"I'm sorry, but we don't have anything to add on the topic beyond what head coach Joe Jones and junior Jonas Harper said to media last week at our Holy Cross postgame press conference," Ellis wrote.

I was puzzled.

So I reached out to Jason Southard, a good friend and the sports information director at Coast Guard Academy. Sully might as well be the SID-Whisperer, given all the friends he has in the profession. He convinced me to re-write the e-mail and be as specific as possible, saying that perhaps Ellis and the BU hierarchy misunderstood my intentions. BU has been left to answer many questions about the wisdom (or lack thereof) for wearing masks while playing.

I wrote, "Scott — I don't think I was clear in my original e-mail. This isn't intended to be a referendum on why BU is wearing masks. Connecticut just went forward with plans for a high school season. Caveat: Kids have to wear masks (per state mandate). I thought Mike, a local guy for us, could shed some light on the details of wearing them — to help coaches and kids navigate something they've never done.

"What kind of masks work? Does BU take mask breaks? Any special conditioning options? I hope you will reconsider."

Ellis hasn't responded. I sent this last Thursday.

I've done this long enough to understand that athletic hierarchies on all levels practice controlling the message. It's happened to me before. I recall writing a piece about Matt Harvey early in his Met days. I called his old high school friend Bryan Rodgers, who said apologetically that he had to get the Mets' approval before he could speak to me.

Still, I find Boston University's stance here disproportionate. I made it clear this was intended to help kids and coaches who have never done this before. This is about finding masks that aid in air flow, the timing of mask breaks and tips for asthmatics or kids with other breathing issues. Yet they made me feel as though I was asking Quinn to share the game plan against Lafayette.

Then there's this: I have more Twitter followers than the entire BU men's basketball program. Seems to me they could use all the public relations help they can get.

I also found it ironic that the BU men's basketball Twitter feed posted several of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s quotes the other day to honor his memory. Perhaps the BU brass missed this one from Dr. King:

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."

I suspect BU isn't alone in posting Dr. King's quotes, while failing to live up to their ideals.

To be clear: Mike Quinn did nothing wrong here and was totally willing to help. Why do his superiors border on Orwellian? Only they can answer that one. In the age of COVID, we're all supposed to be helping each other.

Good luck to the coaches and kids in Connecticut as they all figure out how masks and basketball mix. The folks at Boston University know the answers. They're just not willing to share.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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