Dayton’s men’s and women’s A-10 openers postponed

A-10 changes forfeit policy in response to rising COVID-19 cases

The Atlantic 10 Conference openers for the Dayton Flyers men’s and women’s basketball teams were postponed Tuesday.

Both teams were scheduled to play at Rhode Island this week: the men on Thursday and the women on Saturday. A makeup date for the men’s game will be announced at a later date. The women’s game was rescheduled for Feb. 16.

Neither the A-10, Dayton or Rhode Island made an official announcement about whether the COVID-19 issues were on Rhode Island’s side or Dayton’s, but Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said, “Both our teams were cleared and ready and able to play.”

The Rhode Island men’s team has not played since Dec. 13 because of COVID-19 issues.

Dayton men’s A-10 home opener against defending league champion and preseason favorite St. Bonaventure at noon Sunday remains on the schedule. The Bonnies (8-3) haven’t played since losing 86-49 to Virginia Tech on Dec. 17 and had their last non-conference game cancelled because of COVID-19 issues at Northeastern. Their A-10 opener at George Washington was also postponed Thursday.

“You’re not going to get me to make too many predictions,” Sullivan said, “but our team was prepared to play Thursday and we’re prepared to play Sunday.”

The Dayton men returned to practice Monday, six days after a 69-60 victory against Southern at UD Arena, and practiced again Tuesday. The Flyers (8-5) finished their non-conference season without a postponement.

Five of the seven A-10 men’s games scheduled for Thursday were postponed. Also postponed were: George Mason at Virginia Commonwealth; Duquesne at Davidson; and Saint Louis at Massachusetts. Only two games remain on the schedule: Saint Joseph’s at Richmond; and Fordham at La Salle.

Three other women’s games were postponed Saturday: Fordham at Davidson; George Mason at UMass; and VCU at La Salle. The Mid-American Conference announced Tuesday four games scheduled for Wednesday, including Miami at Ohio, were postponed.

The A-10 announced those postponements and others while also updating its COVID-19 forfeit policy. Instead of automatic forfeits, it will now allow games to be rescheduled. That was the case last season when no men’s team played a full 18-game schedule and one team, George Washington, played as few as eight A-10 games. The league champion, St. Bonaventure, finished 11-4, while second-place VCU was 10-4.

Here’s the updated policy: “Under the revised A-10 COVID policy, games that cannot be played due to positive COVID-19 tests will be postponed and attempted to be rescheduled by the Atlantic 10 Conference office. If a suitable reschedule date cannot be found, the game will be declared a no contest. Conference standings and championship seeding will be based on an approved formula balancing team win-loss records with total number of contests completed. If a team opts to not play the rescheduled contest, the game can be declared a forfeit by the league office. In addition, the conference also revised an earlier policy for requiring teams to complete conference games. The revision requires teams that have seven available scholarship student-athletes and one countable coach to compete in all conference contests. Teams may also participate with less than seven available student-athletes. If a team elects not to play, despite having seven scholarship student-athletes and one coach available, that team will incur a forfeit and be given a loss in the league standings, and the opposing team will be granted a forfeit win.”

The Atlantic 10 followed the lead of other conferences in deciding to try to reschedule games.

The Big Ten Conference also updated its COVID-19 policy on Tuesday: “If a team or teams is/are unable to participate in a scheduled conference competition due to COVID-19,” the league announced, “and as a result the competition is unable to occur on the calendar day on which it is scheduled, the competition will not automatically be considered a forfeiture. Upon review and approval by the conference office, in consultation with the participating institutions and the Big Ten Chief Medical Officer, Dr. James Borchers, the competition may be rescheduled, or declared a no contest or a forfeiture. The conference office will be responsible for rescheduling any conference competition postponed due to COVID-19.”

While Sullivan said he didn’t want to speak for the conference, from Dayton’s perspective, he likes the idea of keeping the schedule in place this year and not finding last-minute replacements. In other words, rather than playing one of the other available A-10 teams this Thursday, he would rather find a new date for the Rhode Island game later this season. Jan. 25 and Feb. 16 would be the most likely dates Dayton could reschedule the Rhode Island game.

“I think last year with the number of games that were mixed and matched and moved, I don’t really find that as tenable this year,” Sullivan said. “It was a little easier to do that without fans. You’re just playing in an empty gym. Home and away games didn’t matter as much. You start getting into some travel issues, being able to get airplanes. Last year, a lot of people weren’t flying yet. I think there’s a different dynamic this year.”

The pandemic has caused a wave of cancellations around college basketball in recent weeks. There are different testing protocols across the sport. Jeff Goodman, a basketball analyst at polled 125 programs and found 42 percent (53 teams) tested the entire team after Christmas break.

Dayton’s policy is to only test people who are symptomatic or in cases of high-risk contact tracing.

“For the most part, we are not doing just random surveillance testing,” Sullivan said. “We’re in line with the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group from the NCAA. That’s the process that we’re following.”

This is the third straight season affected by the pandemic. Neither Dayton team got to play in the NCAA tournament in 2020. Both teams had their schedules altered in major ways last season, and the UD women’s team twice had to pause team activities.

“I feel mostly for the young men and women who’ve lived under this uncertainty and volatility for the last two years,” Sullivan said. “I’m sorry that continues for them. As a leader, my job is to try to be confident and decisive and deliver a path for young people. But obviously our skills at predicting COVID and games and cancellations has proven to be ineffective to date. I regret that we can’t provide the clarity and vision for the student-athletes and fans that they expect. Our coaching staff on the men’s and women’s side, I think they’re elite. They’ll keep our players locked in to what they can control and try to keep our teams in fighting conditions, so to speak. There’s some similarities to last year, and I think there are some things this year that we may be a little more prepared for.”

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