The Big Ten announced its policy for games that have to be forfeited due to COVID-19 in 2021–22.
On Monday, the Big Ten wrote that “the conference has determined that if one of its member institutions is unable to play a conference contest due to COVID-19, that contest shall be declared a forfeit and will not be rescheduled. That contest shall be considered a loss for the team impacted by COVID-19 and a win for its opponent in the conference standings.”
Should both teams in a contest be unavailable to play due to COVID, the game would be declared a “no contest.” That policy covers all Big Ten sports for the academic year, and was a collaboration between conference “Athletic Directors, Chancellors and Presidents, the Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases, and the Sports Medicine Committee.”
In football––where Nebraska and Illinois play the first Big Ten game of the year––that’s a potentially steep penalty for a team unable to play and will likely keep team vaccination rates a talking point for the next couple of weeks.
On Thursday, Aug. 19, Illinois coach Bret Bielema said all but a handful of his team had been vaccinated.
“I believe we’re under five now,” he said. “The guys that we’re going to travel with, I’m pretty sure there’s only one guy that hasn’t gotten his second [shot]. Everybody in the building has gotten a first shot, I think we’re waiting on five or six guys to get a second one.”
Nebraska has been less up front with its team vaccination rate.
In April, during spring practice, Scott Frost said he was waiting for direction from university leaders and the conference before making any decisions.
“This is just my opinion but the kids on our team should probably be last in line for something like that just because of how young and healthy they are,” he said. “I assume at some point the vaccinations will be available for our guys. I don’t think I’m going to make them mandatory, I don’t think that’s right, but hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to get some of our guys vaccinated if they want to.”
That sentiment had changed somewhat by Big Ten media days near the end of July.
“Vaccination gives us the best chance to have a football season that’s uninterrupted,” Frost said.
One week later, at the outset of fall camp, Frost said he “wasn’t comfortable yet with how many I perceive are vaccinated.” Nebraska was been working to educate the playing on the topic, with Frost saying in August he’d had three specialists to talk with the team.
The Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC have similar forfeiture policies to the Big Ten. The ACC is the most stringent so far among the power conferences, giving each team a loss (via forfeit) if neither is able to play due to COVID-19.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.