NEC and Horizon still have packages due to COVID | Radio WGN 720


NEW YORK (AP) — Linda Cimino hasn’t lost a Northeastern Conference game on the court this season in St. Francis, NY

Still, the Terriers sit 4-2 in the standings after losing two games just before the New Year due to COVID-19 concerns in the team. They will face first-place Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday night.

“It’s obviously disappointing to suffer two forfeit losses,” Cimino said. “What makes it more frustrating is that you’re taking away playing opportunities from student-athletes, especially after they’ve done everything we asked them to do to get vaccinated.”

The NEC is still forfeiting teams if they cannot play due to the coronavirus. There have already been half a dozen games lost. The Horizon League, which is the only other conference with the potential to force a forfeit, leaves it up to the commissioner to decide whether a team forfeits or the game is declared a no contest.

What makes it more difficult for NEC schools is that their conference tournament is played on the home court of the top-ranked team, which could give teams a clear advantage. The Horizon League Semi-Finals and Finals are played on neutral ground.

The NEC has discussed and voted on the issue a few times since the start of the season, but the league decided to uphold the forfeit rule. The league changed this year so that every team qualifies for the tournament instead of just the top four teams.

“Everyone has that opportunity,” NEC commissioner Noreen Morris said in a telephone interview. “That was the first thing we had to do. This gives them peace of mind that they will be in the playoffs by allowing all eligible teams to be eligible for the championship.

Morris understands the coaches’ frustration with forfeits, but believes no one solution will make everyone happy. The academic piece of potentially missing classes to make up games is something the league was not comfortable doing.

“We’re trying to manage what are the best options, what are the pros and cons?” she said. “There’s no right answer here. When you look at the pros and cons of forfeit versus uncontested, the negatively impacted teams say you’re penalizing us.

“We wanted to inspire people to get vaccinated, but omicron is different because you’re not as protected. Teams say you’re penalizing us for something that’s not in our control.

The Horizon policy is a little different. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in a team that has a low vaccination rate and there aren’t enough players to field, a forfeit would be likely. There can be a lot of moving parts, and each team’s situation is not the same, so the commissioner considers everything.

“It’s not black and white. There are a lot of gray areas,” Horizon League Assistant Commissioner Dan Gliot said. “Our biggest thing is to promote vaccination.”

The league doesn’t want to penalize teams that do everything in their power not to have a COVID-19 outbreak. So far, only a few schools have had to give up games.

Both conferences have always been single-bid leagues, so winning the postseason tournament is the only chance to make the NCAA.

Morris said there’s still a chance the conference will change its stance, although with just over a month left in the season, that’s unlikely.

“We are always open to evaluation and pivoting,” she said. “If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we have to be ready to pivot at all times given the landscape we face. With COVID, there’s no politics with COVID going on.”


AP Sports Writer Eric Olson contributed to this story.


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