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Big Ten Conference updates COVID-19 Forfeiture Policy

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan v Iowa Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the onslaught of canceled games that has beset bowl games and college basketball, the Big Ten announced earlier today that it has updated its forfeiture policy. Teams will not necessarily forfeit games now if they are unable to compete on the originally scheduled date for a contest.

Back on Aug. 24, the conference announced that any games that had to be canceled due to a team’s failure to field enough players under NCAA COVID-19 protocols would result in that game being a forfeit by said team. With the recent wave of the latest major COVID variant, Omicron, a large number of basketball games and bowl games have been canceled or postponed nationally as teams have suffered outbreaks. As a result, the Big Ten today rolled back that policy.

The updated policy as released by the Big Ten earlier today is below:

If a team or teams is/are unable to participate in a scheduled Conference competition due to COVID-19, and as a result the competition is unable to occur on the calendar day on which it is scheduled, the competition will not automatically be considered a forfeiture. Upon review and approval by the Conference office, in consultation with the participating institutions and the Big Ten Chief Medical Officer, Dr. James Borchers, the competition may be rescheduled, or declared a no contest or a forfeiture. The Conference office will be responsible for rescheduling any conference competition postponed due to COVID-19.

The number of competitors available – i.e. seven scholarship student-athletes for women’s and men’s basketball – and the availability of at least one countable coach will be factored into the decision-making process. A team that is below the number may still decide to compete if deemed safe by appropriate medical personnel (i.e. the decision to postpone a competition will not be automatic even if a team is below the number).

Conversely, a team that is not below the number of requisite competitors and a coach may still determine that it is unsafe to compete. In such case, forfeiture will not be automatic, but an institution would need to demonstrate to the Conference office, including the Chief Medical Officer, the circumstances that have led to a determination that it would be unsafe to compete. A team that does not compete, and is unable to demonstrate why it is unsafe to compete, will be assessed a forfeiture. Postponed competitions that do not result in forfeiture but are unable to be rescheduled will be declared “no contests.”

Overall, the process as to how to handle forfeiture, no contest, or postponement decisions will be more nuanced compared to the original policy from August for whether a team can cancel or not. However, a team does need to field at least seven players and one coach in order to compete. If a team has at least that many players and staff, but otherwise wishes for a postponement or cancelation, some level of case must be made by the program as to why it is unsafe at that time to compete. That case will be reviewed and a determination by the Big Ten office made. If it is to be rescheduled, the Big Ten will handle that process as well.