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Sporting events getting axed over COVID policy felt like a relic by the time we got to 2023. But Big Ten conference teams are proving otherwise after another ridiculous cancelation citing COVID guidelines.
On Monday it was announced that a Big Ten matchup scheduled for Tuesday between Minnesota and Illinois had been canceled because of COVID health and safety protocols.
Why Is COVID Still Affecting Sports in 2023?
This is the third time in 2023 that COVID policy has interfered by canceling or postponing a Big Ten men’s basketball game, with Northwestern canceling two games in a week’s time in late January citing the same reason: not enough players on the roster, some being ruled out with COVID.
On Saturday’s 81-46 beatdown by Maryland, Minnesota (7-15, 1-11 Big Ten) took the floor with eight scholarship players active for the contest, fulfilling the seven-player threshold required by the conference.
Two players reportedly tested positive for COVID to put the Gophers’ roster under the seven-player requirement ahead of Monday’s announcement.
The decision to delay Tuesday’s game over COVID was so far-fetched and outdated to online audiences that some proposed Minnesota deliberately used the COVID ruling to its advantage — amid a seven-game losing streak and dismal conference record at 1-11.
Is There A Plot To Cancel Games?
With leading scorer Dawson Garcia on a four-game absence because of a right-foot bone bruise, conjecture around the COVID cancelation suggested that the program may be delaying its game against Illinois (currently third in the Big Ten at 7-5) to play with one of its top players available, rather than a depleted roster.
As college hoops enter the final month before March Madness, can the validity of COVID protocols be upheld or are the guidelines now being used in teams’ favors?
Whether it’s to delay games and get healthy bodies back or other advantageous ploys.
Though teams contemplating these advantages are certainly in the wrong, using COVID as an excuse has been an extension of college sports’ terrible policies during the pandemic that allowed the illness to be an uncontested stoppage.
Simply put, if COVID’s the reason, you can’t dispute it.
After all, the Gophers’ policy, like many other programs, is fairly hands-off with COVID testing so it’s highly coincidental that they’re using the guideline in the final month leading up to the postseason.
The Gophers haven’t had a pressing COVID mandate or cancelation since the school-wide vaccine requirement was announced in January 2022.
Now, one year later, two players on the same roster are sitting out because of COVID, showing no concrete plan by the program or conference to mitigate cancelations.
Solution: Play The Game or Forfeit
According to Minnesota’s announcement, no official plan or rescheduled date has been announced for the Gophers and Illini game. So the question is, what exactly is going on here, where the COVID cancelation is still possible in 2023?
On the same day of the game’s postponement, New York City (a hotbed of COVID policy) announced it had nixed one of its more prominent pandemic-era mandates based on the idea that treatment and vaccines have made COVID a manageable or mitigated illness.
Just this past week, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Barbara Ferrer made a strong declaration of the county’s post-COVID directive by striking a universal masking mandate.
So if two major cities that advocated for stringent COVID policy for nearly three years are willing to embrace post-COVID normalcy, how is a basketball game in the Midwest in 2023 getting affected by COVID? And why is the conference not doing anything about it?
The Big Ten can pounce on this issue by eliminating standing COVID policies at the start of next season to no longer allow postponements, and instead of merely delaying the games due to COVID sit-outs, they could start setting the precedent that COVID-related delays will count as forfeitures.
Keep in mind this is the same conference that sacrificed sporting events in 2020 out of fear of COVID.
No one is sure of the answer, but there has to be a safeguard to ensure games at the height of the season aren’t being delayed or canceled over a long-expired guideline.
Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela
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