If Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team had won its game Saturday night, on Feb. 18, it would have gone into the postseason ranked No. 1 in its division yet again. But it didn’t even play.
That’s because the Maccabees’ game against the Farmingdale State College Rams was canceled after its scheduled tipoff time, with YU’s athletic director citing tight timing after Shabbat as the reason.
In a statement issued late that night, the athletic director, Greg Fox, said a promise to allow “adequate warmup time” after the YU team traveled from its home in Washington Heights to Farmingdale State’s Long Island campus had been broken.
“It is sad for me to report that we chose to cancel tonight’s men’s basketball game against Farmingdale State College,” Fox said. “When we arrived at the game, as early as possible after Shabbat, we were not provided with sufficient time to warm up. In the interest of safety, we could not allow our student-athletes to proceed. Farmingdale had made a prior commitment to provide adequate warmup time, which was not honored.”
The stakes of the game were high: The winner would get the top ranking in the Skyline Conference and get to play all of the postseason games at home.
The game was set for 8:30 p.m. But that time came and went without a starting whistle. Instead, the student broadcaster who has streamed YU’s games since before the team’s improbable NCAA tournament run last year tweeted that the game would start closer to 9 p.m. Two minutes before that, he tweeted again: “The game has been canceled.” Fox’s explanation came hours later.
The incident marks a rare public collision in YU’s unusual status as the only Modern Orthodox school in the NCAA. Last year, as the team extended its winning streak past league records, ultimately ending at 50 games, national news coverage focused on how players were able to balance religious observance and athletic commitments, and how their conference devised a schedule that would not require the team to play on Shabbat.
Saturday night’s schedule was tight. Shabbat, when travel is prohibited, ended at 6:15 p.m. at YU’s campus in Washington Heights. Farmingdale State’s Long Island campus is just under 40 miles away, and travel by car or bus typically takes just under an hour, suggesting that an hour-long warmup would not fit before the officially scheduled start time.
The two teams last faced off in November, during a Saturday night game at YU. Farmingdale State won that matchup 80-69, meaning that even though the two teams each had a 12-3 record during the regular season after the cancellation, Farmingdale State will have the top seed in the postseason competition that began on Feb. 21. YU is ranked No. 3 and will play Saint Joseph’s University-Long Island at home that night.
The championship game is also scheduled for the evening of Feb. 25. According to the Skyline Conference’s website, “The championship final will take place Feb. 25 (note: accommodations will be made for religious observances).”