ACC introduces COVID-19 forfeit policy

In ACC football games this season, teams that are unable to field a sufficient number of players because of COVID-19 will be required to forfeit those games, with the opponent awarded a win. In the event both teams don’t have enough players for a game, both teams will be assessed a loss that will count in the league standings.

The forfeit policy was announced Thursday by the conference. Unlike the 2020 season, when the schedule was built to enable games to be rescheduled in the event teams could not play because of reasons related to COVID-19, the 2021 schedule has little flexibility.

The policy, which covers football, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball, would stand as an incentive for athletes, coaches and staff to be vaccinated. It is similar to policies introduced by the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences.

“The ACC’s Medical Advisory Group continues its tireless efforts to deliver meaningful protocols that will provide a healthy and safe environment for our student-athletes and teams,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement.

Also, the league introduced rules regarding the testing of unvaccinated team members. For teams that have achieved an 85% vaccination rate, unvaccinated individuals must be tested once per week for COVID-19. For teams below 85%, they are required to be tested a minimum of three times per week. The Georgia Tech football team is above the 85% rate, coach Geoff Collins said Aug. 6.

Teams that are at the 85% rate or higher and have no active cases may also relax mitigation strategies such as spacing/masking during meetings and meals and while traveling.

The policy does allow for games to be rescheduled for reasons related to COVID-19. The factors include a spread of cases within either team’s student population, unsafe transmission rates within the campus or community, inability to conduct required testing or recommended contact tracing and an inability for the hospital infrastructure near the home team to accommodate a surge in COVID-related hospitalizations.