As expected, the SEC revised its COVID policy for the 2021-22 men’s and women’s basketball seasons. The first change is to the roster minimums. The SEC will now use the “seven-and-one” rule, meaning teams will now be required to play if they have at least seven scholarship players and one countable coaching staff member available. If teams have fewer than those numbers available, they can still play if they want; if not, the game will be rescheduled or declared a no-contest.
The second big change is to the forfeit policy. If a game is postponed due to COVID, efforts will be made to reschedule; if the game cannot be rescheduled, it will be declared a no contest. Under the previous rule, if a team could not play due to COVID or other issues, they had to forfeit and take a loss in the conference standings, while their opponent would be credited a win. Yesterday, the ACC announced similar changes.
“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. “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.”
Per NCAA Playing Rule 2, Section 1, Art. 1, a minimum of two game officials must be available in order to conduct a contest. If less than two officials are available, the game will be postponed in accordance with the policies above.
John Calipari advocated for the change
One person that will be very happy about this news is John Calipari. Over the past week, Calipari called repeatedly for the SEC to change its policies to allow teams to play if they have at least eight players and one coach available.
“The other thing is if you have eight guys, play,” Calipari said after the North Carolina game. “Well, I have three starters now. So do I, now let’s play. We’ve got healthy guys that we’ve got to coach.”
On Tuesday, Calipari doubled down.
“If you have eight scholarship players and a coach, you must play the game. I mean, there’s got to be that. This is not going to be perfect. I like the fact that we’ve had our vaccines, 100%. We’ve had the booster. And what it means to me is that if someone gets it, it’s not going to (make them real sick).”
Bigger NCAA policy changes on the horizon?
The issue of quarantining and contact tracing still remains. All of Kentucky Basketball’s players are vaccinated and boosted. Per the SEC’s COVID guidelines released in October, vaccinated players do not have to quarantine if they come into close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus as long as they are asymptomatic and are two weeks past their final vaccine dose.
Of course, if a vaccinated individual tests positive for the virus, they must quarantine for 10 days, even if they have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. According to Matt Norlander, the NCAA is hoping to receive updated guidance from the CDC on quarantine length for vaccinated and/or boosted individuals but it will likely take at least a few weeks.
Regardless, with SEC basketball starting next week, let’s hope the league’s new policy helps the season stay on track.