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Big Ten unveils updated COVID-19 forfeit policy for 2021-22 sports

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of multiple fall sports beginning regular season play this week, including Big Ten football with Nebraska visiting Illinois on Saturday for a “Week Zero” game, the Big Ten Conference has finally released the updated policies for COVID-19 impacts to the schedule for 2021-2022 sports. A team that is unable to compete due to COVID-19 will have to forfeit that contest and it will be treated as a loss in conference standings, though it will still be treated as a “no contest” should both teams be unable to compete, and it cannot be rescheduled.

The move, long expected, mirrors the other Power Five league policies in considering these games a forfeit now. The Atlantic Coast Conference is the lone difference in that they are treating a scenario where both teams are unable to compete as a mutual forfeit by both teams rather than a “no contest.” This is different than in in 2020, when such games were attempted to be rescheduled and/or considered a “no contest” due largely in part to the lack of a vaccine at the time.

With vaccines widely available, proven efficacy in daily life, and the vaccines being clearly safe such that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, the Big Ten is no longer considering an outbreak of the novel coronavirus to be something needing accommodation in scheduling flexibility. Indeed, multiple schools have already mandated vaccines for student-athletes, though many holdouts of such a move remain as well.

Michigan State announced COVID-19 vaccines for all students, including student-athletes, are mandatory ahead of the fall semester. The season opener for football is scheduled for next Friday, Sept. 3 at Northwestern, which also requires vaccines for all students.