This wasn’t at all how the Colorado men’s basketball team planned to enter its holiday hiatus.
In a perfect world, Wednesday morning would have dawned amid the glow of a huge Buffaloes upset victory that could have changed the prospects of the entire 2021-22 season. At the very least, the Buffs would have received one last big-time nonconference test before regrouping ahead of the resumption of the Pac-12 Conference schedule.
Instead, the Buffs and their fans will go into Christmas wondering what exactly comes next. What comes next in the Pac-12, however, was settled on Wednesday, as the league followed the lead of several other conferences across the country in reverting to last year’s COVID-19 game cancellation policies.
It was a sudden turn of events on Tuesday evening, as the Buffs were forced to cancel their scheduled showdown against No. 7 Kansas as COVID-19 issues hit the CU program. The official announcement arrived less than two hours before the scheduled tipoff for a game set to be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
The most anticipated home game of the season wilted on the vine of a pandemic once again quickly expanding its reach throughout pro and college sports. CU became the fourth Pac-12 program — following Washington, UCLA and USC — to see its schedule impacted by the recent COVID-19 surge. All of those Pac-12 setbacks have occurred since the start of December.
While the extent of the Buffs’ virus issues remains undisclosed, at least one player would have had to exhibit symptoms, as head coach Tad Boyle has said previously that due to his team’s status as fully vaccinated, any testing would only occur if symptoms warranted.
That initial positive test on a symptomatic player occurred early Tuesday afternoon. As further PCR testing unfolded, with the results expedited, CU remained hopeful the game still could proceed as scheduled. When the results finally arrived later Tuesday afternoon, the late cancellation was deemed necessary.
CU associate athletic director of sports information Dave Plati told BuffZone on Wednesday these game-tipping test results weren’t available until 4:55 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. The release announcing the cancellation hit inboxes at 5:12 p.m., and the news also was posted on CU social media accounts around the same time.
Although student ticket claims and walk-up sales were incomplete, CU surely was eager to open the doors for what was expected to be (and was budgeted as) a sellout. Given last year’s fan-less season, a sellout would have been the first at the CU Events Center since the final home game of the 2019-20 season.
The Buffs, like most teams, dealt with their fair share of virus-juggling a year ago. CU played its first three games shorthanded. The Buffs had each of their two early December Pac-12 games moved to later dates. CU also had its early-season matchup against Colorado State wiped off the ledger, leading to an on-the-fly, three-game agreement with Tennessee that brought the nationally-ranked Volunteers to Boulder earlier this month.
CU had two other Pac-12 games rescheduled for later in the season, but ultimately the Buffs completed their full 20-game league schedule. Given Wednesday’s decision by the league to revert to last year’s game policies, the Buffs could be in for more schedule-juggling in the coming months.
Originally for this season, the Pac-12 asserted rules like many other leagues stating that if a game was postponed due to COVID issues, and a makeup date couldn’t be settled upon, the team with the COVID issues would be forced to forfeit. As was the case last year, those games will now be considered no contests. Wednesday’s decision takes a win off UCLA’s ledger, as Washington earlier this month was forced to concede a forfeit to the Bruins. That result will be changed to a no-contest.
Wednesday’s announcement also reestablishes last year’s minimum roster requirements of seven scholarship players and one coach to be available for a game. Those game cancellation policies and minimum roster requirements also apply to Pac-12 women’s basketball.