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CEDAR RAPIDS — No forfeits, but no-contests instead?
The Big Ten Conference released updated protocols for basketball and all winter sports as COVID-19 again surges across the country. Basically everything is on the table.
Originally, teams that could not play a scheduled conference game incurred a forfeit loss. The Big Ten has walked that back, saying it will attempt to reschedule games, and if those attempts ultimately fail, games could be declared a forfeit or simply a no-contest.
That decision will be made at the discretion of the league office.
“The conference office and all 14 Big Ten member institutions have been in continuous contact about developments related to COVID-19,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said. “The well-being of our student-athletes and our entire athletic communities is our top priority and we are updating our forfeiture policy to support their health and safety as well as the integrity of conference competition.”
The league has established a minimum availability threshold of seven scholarship players and one coach for games, though teams can decide to play a game even though they are below that threshold. If a team is above the threshold and can prove to the league and its medical advisors that playing would be unsafe, a game would be declared a no-contest instead of a forfeit.
“I think it was a wise move,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “I think we have great leadership with Kevin Warren, and he always communicates with our presidents and our ADs. We make prudent decisions that are in the best interests of our student-athletes. So I think you make the attempt, every effort to reschedule. When teams get healthy, you reschedule.”
McCaffery said he understands that could lead to very busy weeks for his team and others down the line.
“OK, you might have to play three games in six days or seven days, which is not what we obviously want to do,” he said. “But we don’t want to play when we have some guys who have COVID. We’ll postpone rather than forfeit. I think that’s a smart move.”
Iowa (9-3) plays its final non-conference game Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Western Illinois (10-3). The Hawkeyes won last year’s season opener between the teams, 99-58, but this is a much different and much better Western team under second-year head coach Rob Jeter.
Its top two scorers are Iowans: forward Will Carius of Pleasant Valley (17.8 points per game) and guard Trenton Massner of Wapello (15.9). Western Illinois is coming off a Summit League loss to 2-11 Omaha.
“It’s night and day,” McCaffery said. “They’ve done a really good job there. They’ve got a veteran group, they’ve got some transfers, they’ve got some really good players back. They have a group that fits. They share the ball, they play defense, they compete. It’s a talented group. There’s a reason they’ve got 10 wins.”
McCaffery said center Josh Ogundele won’t play Wednesday for Iowa as he recovers from an ankle injury suffered in last week’s win over Southeastern Louisiana, though he likely will be available when the Hawkeyes resume Big Ten play Monday against Maryland.
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