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College football forfeit rules, by conference: Explaining each Power 5 league’s COVID-19 guidelines

College football forfeit rules, by conference: Explaining each Power 5 league's COVID-19 guidelines

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Power 5 conferences have no sympathy for teams that can’t play games due to COVID-19 in the 2021 college football season.

The 2020 season was tumultuous, one that saw several games rescheduled (such as Alabama-LSU) or outright canceled (such as Michigan-Ohio State) as the coronavirus made its way through the country with no vaccine to speak of. One season later, the vaccine is widely available, meaning teams will assume significantly more responsibility if they’re unable to play a game due to the virus.

That is reflected in each of the Power 5 conference’s forfeiture and rescheduling guidelines in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas the 2020 season focused more on rescheduling games and “no contest” declarations, the 2021 season will see significantly more forfeitures if a team can’t play because of the coronavirus.

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Each of the Power 5 conferences seem to align in their stances as college football attempts a return to normalcy. That said, there are several discrepancies among the respective guidelines, including ability to reschedule, team liability and financial penalties.

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With that, Sporting News breaks down Power 5 COVID-19 forfeiture rules, conference by conference:

COVID-19 forfeit rules by conference

SEC

Forfeits: Yes
Rescheduling available: No

The SEC aligns with the other Power 5 conferences in assigning forfeits to teams that can’t play a game “due to COVID-19, injuries or other reasons.” It also joins the ACC in assigning forfeits to multiple teams if neither can play an assigned game for the reasons mentioned:

“In the event a team is unable to begin or complete a regular season conference event due to the unavailability of participants (due to COVID-19, injuries or other reasons), that team will forfeit the contest and will be assigned a loss in the conference standings. The opposing team that is ready to play will be credited with a win in the conference standings. Both teams will be deemed to have played and completed the contest for purpose of the conference standings.

 

If both teams are unable to compete due to the unavailability of participants (due to COVID-19, injuries or other reasons), both teams shall be deemed to have forfeited the game, with a loss assigned to both teams and applied to the conference standings. Both teams will be deemed to have played and completed the contest for purpose of the conference standings.”

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That said, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey can declare a no contest “if extraordinary circumstances warrant.” Any team that suffers financial loss due to an opponent’s inability to play could be reimbursed by the SEC, per the league’s announcement (pending review from the conference’s executive committee:

Big Ten

Forfeits: Yes
Rescheduling available: Yes (if both teams unable to play)

The Big Ten will force any team that can’t play because of COVID-19 to forfeit a contest, unless its opponent cannot play either, in which case the game would be considered a “no contest” if the game can’t be rescheduled. The conference released forfeiture guidelines for both those instances, and another in which games can’t be played that affect conference standings.

From the Big Ten :

  • Competition involving two Teams. If a team is unable to participate in a scheduled conference competition due to COVID-19 and as a result the competition is unable to occur on the calendar day on which it is scheduled, the competition shall be considered a forfeit by the team unable to participate and shall not be rescheduled. In such case, the team unable to participate shall be assessed a “loss,” its opponent a “win,” and conference standings shall be adjusted accordingly.

 

  • Competition involving two Teams. If both of the two competing teams are unable to participate in a scheduled conference competition due to COVID-19 and as a result the competition is unable to occur on the calendar day on which it is scheduled, and is unable to be rescheduled, the competition shall be considered a “no contest.”

 

  • Competition involving three or more teams. If a team is unable to participate in a scheduled conference competition due to COVID-19 and team performance in the competition impacts conference standings, a team unable to participate due to COVID-19 will be considered to have forfeited the competition. In such case, a team unable to participate shall be assessed a “loss,” each of its opponents a “win,” and conference standings shall be adjusted accordingly. If team performance in the competition does not impact conference standings and/or the involved sport is one in which there are no conference standings, no further action shall be taken.

MORE: Alliance between Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 has many facets, but power is at the core

ACC

Forfeits: Yes
Rescheduling available: No

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The ACC has among the stricter COVID-19 rescheduling policies. Like the other Power 5 conferences, a team that is ruled at fault for a game’s cancellation will forfeit. Where the ACC differs from its counterparts is what happens when both teams are unable to play a game due to COVID: In that case, instead of a “no contest,” both teams will forfeit the competition.

From the ACC :

  • If a 2021 ACC game cannot be played on its originally scheduled date by a team unable to play due to an insufficient number of available players related to COVID-19, that team shall be deemed to have forfeited, with a loss assigned to the team unable to play and a win assigned to its scheduled opponent, with both the loss and win, respectively, applied to the conference standings.

 

  • If a 2021 ACC game cannot be played on its originally scheduled date due to any factor(s) directly associated with a Game Discontinuation Consideration as listed in the current ACC Medical Advisory Group (MAG) Report, the Conference’s sport rescheduling policy shall apply.

 

  • If a 2021 ACC game cannot be played on its originally scheduled date due to both teams being unable to play due to an insufficient number of available players related to COVID-19, both teams shall be deemed to have forfeited, with a loss assigned to both teams and applied to the conference standings.

Pac-12

Forfeits: Yes
Rescheduling available: No

The Pac-12 will declare any game that can’t be played a forfeiture for the at-fault team, with its opponent being granted a win.

Commissioner George Kliavkoff has the sole discretion to determine whether a team is at fault, though the conference provided no guidelines for how vaccines and breakthrough cases affect a team’s liability or what happens if both teams are unable to play. A two-thirds majority vote from an administrative committee is necessary to overturn any such decision by Kliavkoff.

From the Pac-12 :

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“Following consultation with the Pac-12 Athletic Directors Committee, the Pac-12 has determined that its prior longstanding game forfeiture rule (set forth in 2021-22 Pac-12 Administrative Policies referenced below), that was temporarily modified for this past season due to COVID-19, shall once again be applied for this coming athletic season. In accordance with that rule, if an institution is unable to play a contest through its own fault, it shall forfeit such contest to its opponent.

 

Any forfeited contest shall be regarded as a conference loss for the team making the forfeit and a conference win for its opponent. The Pac-12 rule provides the commissioner with discretion to determine whether an institution is at fault or primarily at fault for an inability to play a contest based on the facts of the situation.”

Big 12

Forfeits: Yes
Rescheduling available: No

The Big 12 has ruled any team that can’t play due to COVID-19 will forfeit, except in cases where its opponent can’t field a team. In that case, the game will be ruled a “no contest” with no apparent opportunity to reschedule. Moreover, forfeits can be declared at any time before a contest is completed, though preferably before the visiting team travels. Unbalanced tie-break rules will be used to determine conference standings and championship game participants.

From the Big 12 :

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“The Big 12 Conference has set its game threshold policy for the upcoming season. In the event a conference game is canceled due to a team not having enough student-athletes to compete (due to COVID-19 or for any reason), that team will forfeit and will be credited with a loss in the conference standings. The opponent will be credited with a win in the conference standings. Both teams will be deemed to have played the game for purposes of conference standings only.

 

A forfeit can be declared at any point before a completed contest, and when possible would occur prior to the visiting team commencing travel. Additionally, if both teams are unable to compete, a no contest would be declared and, if needed, an unbalanced tiebreaker would be utilized to determine Conference championship participants in football or championship seeding in other sports. The commissioner retains discretion to declare a no contest if extraordinary circumstances warrant.”



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