GREENSBORO, N.C. — More college basketball teams are benched because of the COVID protocols impacting the rosters.
The Southern Conference announced Western Carolina and UNC-Greensboro’s game scheduled for Thursday is postponed instead of forfeited.
It’s a play we’re seeing more from conferences lately as the virus spreads at a higher rate. However, conferences are being addressed somewhat differently than last year.
Before the beginning of the collegiate winter sports season, athletic conferences like the ACC, Big South, and Southern Conference all ruled that if a team had too many positive COVID-19 cases, they had to forfeit those conference games. As the number of forfeits started to pile up, conferences across the nation realized it was time to make a change.
UNCG interim Athletic Director Kevin Bostian expressed his insight on these recent changes.
“Back in August, when all the conferences put the forfeit clause into place, it was to get the student-athletes vaccinated,” Bostian said. “You didn’t want to have something like what happened at NC State baseball team when they went to the College World Series. They weren’t vaccinated and got kicked out after having a shot at winning a national championship.”
Bostian was one of the 10 Southern Conference Athletic Directors that unanimously decided the COVID-19 forfeit clause was doing more harm than good. As cases continue to spike, the Spartans had to postpone their upcoming conference opener against Western Carolina due to positive cases in the Catamounts program a day after the conference voted to change the rule.
“You want to be competitive, and you want to follow health and safety protocols to protect the student-athletes, but you don’t want to have to forfeit just to forfeit,” Bostian said. “The kids want to play, and they’re not out here just getting sick on their own.”
However, the Spartans aren’t the only team dealing with this shift. Both ACC and Big South adopted this rule change, and A&T Basketball coach, Will Jones, said these things are bigger than just sports.
“It’s not an easy solution to it,” Jones said. “It’s great to be able to say, 'Yes, if you have seven guys, get out there and play. Let’s keep it moving.' However, that’s the second piece to this. The first thing is how do we protect the players?”
Most conferences are in wait-and-see mode to figure out how these seasons will play out.