AAC revises COVID-19 procedures ahead of looming conference season

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Mia Hennen/ The Sunflower

Junior Morris Udeze drives against PVAMU’s block in the second half of the game on Dec. 22.

After a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the American Athletic Conference revised its forfeit policy for league games this season in a release on Monday. 

Originally, any AAC teams who failed to field a team were given a forfeit loss instead of a “no contest”. Now, teams will have the option to reschedule these postponed games, similar to last season. 

The University of Houston was originally given a forfeit loss after their game with Cincinnati was postponed due to the number of players available for Houston. AAC Athletic Directors met on Monday opting to change the policy and the original forfeit loss for the Cougars.

The AAC announced in the release that teams must have a minimum of seven scholarship players and one coach for a conference game to proceed. 

“None of us can control this,” head coach Isaac Brown said. “Sometimes it’s just bad luck you get hit with, and your key players are out. I don’t think you need to play a team when you’re not full strength. The way you can determine a champion is everybody having to play each other and I think it was a great decision by our conference.”

70 men’s college basketball programs have paused activities due to COVID-19 outbreaks, with 54 of those teams currently paused. Wichita State is set to play Memphis (Jan. 1) and Houston (Jan. 8) in early January, with both programs recently dealing with COVID issues. 

The Shockers announced prior to the season that all 13 players are vaccinated, with no COVID-19 related issues this season. Brown said the team didn’t have any positive tests after players arrived back in Wichita from travelling over the holidays, unlike other teams around the country.

Brown spoke with the team ahead of Christmas break about taking precautions to avoid a potential outbreak.

“We always talk to them about anytime you’re out in public, wherever you’re at, in the dorm rooms, out eating, hanging out, make sure you wear your mask because you can still get (COVID),” Brown said. “We just tell them continue to watch over yourselves. Make sure they’re making good decisions. 

“Wear your mask, no matter where you go. The only time they don’t wear it is in practice. We’re starting to wear them a lot more in the film room and in the locker room.”

WSU has limited depth currently, with Isaac Abidde, Jalen Ricks, and Steele Gaston-Chapman redshirting this season. Craig Porter Jr. (ankle) and Joe Pleasant (hamstring) missed WSU’s last game against Prairie View A&M, giving the Shockers eight healthy scholarship players. 

Porter and Pleasant were limited participants in practice on Sunday and Brown said both players were listed as “day-to-day”.

“Neither guy is 100%, so I hope those guys can play in the game,” Brown said. “They practiced (on Sunday), but they weren’t full speed.”

The Shockers will open up AAC play on Wednesday as they take on East Carolina on the road. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPN+.