After a relatively normal college football season, COVID-19 is back in full force just in time to start playing in the basketball conference.
The omicron variant is more contagious and more resistant to vaccines than previous variants, which has led to a large number of postponements in college basketball as well as professional sports. The postponements frustrated teams and fans, especially with many of the positive athletes having little or no symptoms.
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The constant change of situation and protocols has led to confusion. This is the current state of things:
How do booster shots affect NCAA protocols?
The NCAA on Thursday updated proposed protocols for winter sports teams and their definition of full vaccination status. The protocols state that athletes who have received a booster dose, who are not yet eligible for a booster dose based on when they received their initial dose or who have tested positive for coronavirus in the last 90 days, are considered “fully immune”. Everyone else should follow protocols for unvaccinated players, which include more testing and the possibility of having to quarantine as a close contact.
For athletes who haven’t been fully vaccinated, the NCAA suggests testing three times a week with antigen tests or once a week for PCR tests. However, if an individual school had stricter protocols, that would take precedence over the NCAA’s proposal. Vanderbilt requires unvaccinated students to take the test twice a week and vaccinates students, but not reinforce them, for the test once a week.
Any athlete deemed not fully immunized must be subject to a five-day quarantine and may not participate in any sporting activity during that period, according to the National Collegiate Sports Authority. They may return to practice afterwards without a mask if they have no symptoms and can produce a negative test.
Because Vanderbilt requires vaccination, athletes are not allowed to not be vaccinated unless they have a valid medical or religious exemption. Men’s basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse and women’s basketball coach Shea Ralph said their teams have been fully vaccinated. It’s unclear how many athletes on those teams received the booster dose. Ralph told reporters in late December that “most” of her squad, as well as the entire crew, had been beefed up, and the team had also had several players who had entered protocols recently and had therefore been injury-eligible in the past 90 days.
Are vaccinated players without symptoms still getting tested?
It depends. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor the NCAA require players who have been vaccinated without symptoms to undergo regular testing. Updated protocols from the NCAA state that athletes in a vaccination protocol should only get tested if they have symptoms, are in close contact, or there are signs of an outbreak on their team. Specifically, teams are instructed to complete incremental tests if there are three or more concurrent cases in a team with fewer than 50 people, or more than 5% of Level 1 people in a team of more than 50 people. (This is why NC State was required to test its vaccinated players during the World College Championships; having four simultaneous positives triggered protocols for under-50 teams.)
However, some schools and local health departments have put in place stricter protocols, especially in the wake of Omicron. Vanderbilt requires all vaccinated and booster students to participate in a randomized control testing program, in which a random group of students is selected for testing each week. According to a program spokesperson, Vanderbilt athletes must also follow this protocol.
How long do players have to stay in the protocols?
The SEC and NCAA recently updated their protocols to match new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that asymptomatic athletes who test positive can return after five days instead of 10. New NCAA protocols state that athletes may return after Five days as long as she is fever-free and symptoms have improved. They can resume training without a mask if they can submit a negative test. According to Stackhouse, Vanderbilt athletes can return within five days if they have received booster shots.
This does not mean that the player will play in a game once the protocols have been cleared. In many cases, athletes need time to ramp up their training before playing any game. Additionally, not every school or conference shortened the isolation period. In some states and cities, the rules are stricter. For example, UConn women’s basketball faced a slew of cancellations because the Connecticut Department of Health continued to require a 10-day isolation period.
Athletes deemed to be in close contact with them must self-quarantine for five days. They are later allowed to resume sports activity without a mask if the test result is negative.
Do teams that postpone matches avoid their opponents?
It’s a common accusation among opposing fans that whenever a team has had to postpone a match due to COVID issues, it’s because they didn’t want to play that particular opponent. Although there is no way to prove it, it is likely not as popular as many fans believe. The Securities and Exchange Commission and other conferences have specific rules to prevent this from happening.
In the SEC, basketball teams must play if they have at least seven players available and one coach who can be counted; If a team exceeds this limit and decides not to play, it will be charged with a loss. Teams can, and sometimes, play under the bar, but they are not required to. There are complex considerations involved in deferment. Playing basketball with fewer than seven players available or playing soccer while skinny in some places increases the risk of injury to the players playing, so many teams choose to reschedule the game for safety reasons, especially if it already is. Dealing with a number of injuries.
It’s also worth noting that a team with fewer than seven players available doesn’t mean all of those players are in the COVID protocol. On Tuesday, Vanderbilt played in Arkansas with nine players available for scholarships, but only one player got out of COVID; The others missed the match due to injury. Teams with a large number of injuries, players in the gate or other availability concerns are likely to have to postpone matches.
And again, local restrictions can be an issue here. During the football season, Cal had to postpone a game due to COVID restrictions in the city of Berkeley that were stricter than the rest of the country. Had the team been located in another city, it would have likely played, but the city prevented the team from playing. In early 2021, the Michigan administration requested that the entire athletics department shut down for two weeks after discovering a new variable, including teams that did not have any positive cases. Neither team chose not to play (indeed, both were annoyed by the restrictions), but instead faced local restrictions that complicated things.
How are NCAA polling voters and selection committee dealing with the impacts of COVID?
The NCAA Selection Committee considers games that have already been played. However, COVID issues can have an indirect effect on selection. Since a major part of selection is good wins, if a team has a game against a top opponent that has been cancelled, it will lose the opportunity to boost its resume, thus potentially reducing its chances of selection. Some conferences still use waivers, which can affect a team’s ranking in the conference championship and, therefore, their ability to receive an automatic bid in March.
On Thursday, the men’s and women’s selection committees released a statement saying that when selecting, they will take into account whether teams have lost key employees, whether due to COVID, suspension or injuries, in losses. This is consistent with their general policy regarding player absences. The selection committee also encouraged teams to follow their conference protocols regarding postponements and cancellations.
In polls, each voter can decide how to deal with teams who have been postponed or canceled, or who have played short. In general, the postponements did not hurt the difference in the poll.
Aria Gerson covers athletics in Vanderbilt, Tennessee. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter Tweet embed.