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CEDAR FALLS - Northern Iowa men's basketball coach Ben Jacobson said Monday he's more frustrated now than he was Friday when his team's Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinal against Drake was canceled due to COVID-19.
'With everything that I know now the game should have been played. There's no two ways around it,” Jacobson said. 'Cannot tell you just how terrible I feel for our guys.”
Jacobson said that a UNI player's positive PCR test had come back negative on the second platform around 10 a.m. Friday, seven hours before the game's scheduled tipoff time. St. Louis' Board of Health protocol next ascertained whether or not the positive test came from someone who had a previous case of COVID-19 within 120 days. In UNI's case there hadn't been. So, instead of re-testing - given the initial test's second platform negative - protocol went directly to contact tracing and consequently knocked out enough of UNI's team for it to be unable to meet the minimum roster requirement to play.
'To end it right there and say, ‘that's it', should not have been their list of protocols for the city of St. Louis, our league, whoever set that up. Whatever conversations they had that shouldn't have been the end,” Jacobson said. 'The next step should be, ‘OK, let's test him again to confirm the positive.' Whether they think we should or shouldn't is irrelevant. It's the only conference tournament we get to play.”
Beyond the city's protocols and the initial miscommunication between St. Louis Board of Health officials and the MVC, Jacobson also expressed frustration with the league's setup of locker rooms at Enterprise Center. That made social distancing somewhere between difficult to impossible.
'We go down there and they put us in the locker rooms that doesn't allow for space in terms of the Kinexon data and the contact tracing,” Jacobson said. 'We spent all year - (the MVC) asked us as individual teams to have an extra space available for our opponents when they come to play us. To think that we would go then to the Valley tournament and not have a bigger space available so our guys could distance when we're there for pregame, halftime, so you're not racking up the Kinexon minutes - the communication, the planning, the organization, that part of it, it's just hard to fathom.”
Ultimately additional testing did confirm UNI's case to be a false positive, but by the time those results came in Friday afternoon the previously unbeknownst protocols had been followed and the decision was made to cancel. Drake went on to beat Missouri State in the semifinals Saturday before falling to top-seed Loyola Chicago in the championship game.
'Whoever was on the call - city of St. Louis, Valley, administration from both schools - like whoever was on that call, they made a huge mistake,” Jacobson said. 'Anyone who advocated for not playing the game made a huge mistake. And the fact they didn't have it in place to retest a positive, whether it was us or anybody else, that should have been part of the protocol going in.”
Jacobson on Monday also shared the plans for each of his three seniors given the extra year of eligibility available to them as a result of the pandemic.
'Tywhon (Pickford) and Goanar (Mar) are both back,” Jacobson said. 'Talking with Trae (Berhow) we're going to take a look at what might be available for him in terms of moving on to a professional career. If there's not a good place for him to start his professional career then he told me this morning that he wants to come back. And we would want him back.”