According to a source, the Pac-12 is discussing policy adjustments in its basketball season in the wake of the resurgence of COVID and the potential for disruption in the regular season.
Several teams have already been affected:
– The Washington men were unable to play three games earlier this month due to the COVID outbreak.
– UCLA men and women are currently on hiatus after canceling several games.
– Arizona women canceled a date with Texas over the weekend.
– The USC men will not play Oklahoma State this week and have halted team activities.
All affected programs are believed to have been largely, if not fully immunized.
“We need to get this done before the next conference games,” the source said, referring only to the start of conference games next week.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated process: The Pac-12 can simply dust off the appropriate COVID policies implemented last season and submit them for approval by athletic directors and other key campus officials.
Some changes may be needed, but COVID policies are most likely to be implemented for both men and women include the following:
1. Threshold for Competition
Last year, the conference established a minimum roster count: teams were considered available to play if they had at least seven scholarship players and one coach.
Below that player’s number, the affected team was given the option to play. If it was rejected, the game was rescheduled or no competition was declared.
Those player and coach minimums can apply for the remainder of this season.
2. Approach to the Makeup Game
If games cannot be played on schedule, they will likely be cancelled, not postponed.
Last year, teams were obliged to take all reasonable steps to reschedule, and the round-robin lineup included a window for a make-up game. Emphasis was placed on playing as many games as possible in a safe and secure way.
But when the Pac-12 finalized the 2021-22 league schedule a few months ago, there was no such thing as an Omicron variant and the chances of a COVID disruption appeared slim. No windows were involved for makeup dates.
In some cases, it may be possible to slide games back over two or three days – from Saturday to Monday or Tuesday, for example – but those instances will most likely involve travel partners.
Games that cannot be played as originally scheduled will likely not be made.
With this issue in particular and others in general, conference officials are in communication with peers at the Power Five about best practices.
Several leagues across the country have been affected by COVID in a way that no one anticipated when the schedule was originally set.
3. Canceled games are being declared as no competition
The original plan for this season was that a team would be forfeited if they were unable to play a conference game due to COVID.
This may change, with canceled games being treated as no competition – as if they were last season.
How could this affect Washington, who was unable to play Arizona and UCLA earlier this month? The first game was rescheduled for January 25, but the latter was declared forfeit according to established policy.
If that policy is adopted for the remainder of the season, the conference may consider replacing UW’s forfeiture with no contest. The decision will be made by the athletic directors.
4. Conference Title Required
Last year, the Pac-12 applied the following formula to determine the regular-season champion:
A team is required to play three more games than the average number played by the entire conference in order to be eligible for the title and No. 1 seed in a conference tournament.
That policy may also be implemented for 2021-22.
The fifth component needed to navigate another COVID season is beyond the Pac-12’s control: the minimum number of games required to participate in the NCAA Tournament.
Currently, the number is 25. But with dozens of teams already affected — and with many more likely to face problems — the NCAA could lower the minimum requirement or waive it altogether.
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