With cases of COVID-19 rising due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, the SEC (along with several other conferences) has made changes to league policy regarding game cancelations for basketball. Under the new rules, a team must play as long as it has seven scholarship players available and one countable coach, though teams are permitted to compete with fewer players available if they choose to.
If a team is unable to play, the game will either be postponed or declared a no-contest. This is a reversal of previous policy, which called for a game to be forfeit if one team wasn’t able to compete. These rules apply to both men’s and women’s basketball, and similar changes have been made by the Big East and Mid-American conferences as well as Conference USA.
“As we have done since the onset of the pandemic, we continue to evaluate our policies and procedures related to COVID-19 based on the most current information,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “Circumstances have clearly changed since our interrupted game policy was implemented in August and this updated approach is intended to support healthy, fair and equitable competition.”
After a year that was mostly free from interference due to COVID, we’re starting to see a lot of impacts from Omicron. Several college football bowl games have been canceled in addition to a number of college basketball games. With SEC play just around the corner, it was clear the league needed to respond somehow.
The original decision to require affected teams to forfeit was meant as an incentive for players and coaches to be vaccinated, but with Omicron spreading among even the vaccinated, this is a change that is understandable and probably needed to happen to ensure the competitive integrity of the 2021-22 season.