As the sports world was beginning an unprecedented shut down last March, Greg McCall and his team had a front-row seat.
On March 11, McCall and the Cal State Bakersfield women's basketball team were on the court preparing for their WAC Tournament opener against Grand Canyon, only for the game to be postponed due to an undisclosed medical issue involving a player.
The teams attempted to take the court again the following morning, but with the nation then fully in the grips of COVID-19, the game was called off. Within hours, the rest of the season, including the men's and women's NCAA Tournaments, had been canceled as well.
Now, more than six months removed from that initial incident, McCall and his peers are naturally reacting well to news that some sense of normalcy may be returned to their professional lives.
On Thursday, the NCAA officially implemented a return to action plan that would allow Division I teams to take part in games as early as Nov. 25. Team can begin preseason practices on Oct. 14.
"I knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when," McCall said "But we're definitely excited that we get to start basketball back up again."
Despite having specific dates provided by the NCAA, there is no guarantee CSUB will be starting at that time, as state and conference guidelines could still delay the start of the season.
CSUB Athletic Director Kenneth "Ziggy" Siegfried says he plans to meet with Big West athletic directors regularly over the next two weeks to map out their own return to action plan, saying there will be three options to choose from.
One plan would involve a full non-conference and conference season, another would feature only conference games, with the last being a "hybrid model" consisting of anywhere from two to four non-conference games and a full conference slate.
Through early talks with other schools, Siegfried sees the hybrid model as the most likely outcome.
"I could definitely see that being where we end up," he said. "I think that's a scenario that could work out favorably for all our Big West institutions."
Even if the season does start late, the Roadrunners should still have an opportunity to compete for a postseason berth. Thursday's NCAA ruling stipulated that teams need only to play against 13 Division I opponents to be eligible to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
"That's huge," said men's basketball coach Rod Barnes, who led CSUB to the NCAA Tournament in 2016. "You compete with that goal so to still have that in tact I feel gives us a goal that all coaches and players can shoot for. It's probably the most important and exciting thing for me."
While some uncertainty remains, all parties seemed very encouraged to see things finally trending in a positive direction.
"It’s just encouraging that things seem to be progressing forward," Siegfried said. "And now we can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit on returning to competition.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be perfect, but we’re going to try to figure it out," McCall added.
Elsewhere in the department, Siegfried says the men's and women's swimming and diving teams could begin their seasons as early as Nov. 1.
Though stressing that "nothing is set in stone," Siegfried believes swimming provides a low risks of transmission and is optimistic the season will start in relatively short order.
Things are a bit murkier for the wrestling program. In wrestling, CSUB competes in the Pac-12, which last month suspended all athletic activity until Jan. 1.
Siegfried says he's attempted to contact conference officials to ask if that date would be changed, but has yet to receive a response.