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ACC changes league’s forfeit policy. Teams with 7 healthy athletes, 1 coach can play

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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his assistants wear face coverings after assistant coach Nolan Smith missed the game against Elon due to the spread of the COVID-19 on Saturday, December 18, 2021 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

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The ACC changed its COVID-19 protocols on Wednesday, changing the forfeit rule that had previously applied to teams unable to play a scheduled league game due to positive COVID-19 cases.

The new ACC rule stipulates that as long as a team has seven available scholarship players and one coach, they are deemed available to play. If a team does not have that number of participants, the game will be declared a no contest. Previously that had been a forfeit.

However, if a team does meet those requirements and decides not to play, the result would then be a forfeit.

The rule change will apply retroactively, meaning forfeit results stemming from postponed games (Duke at Miami women and Boston College men at Wake Forest) can now be considered a no contest.

ACC athletic directors voted on the change during a previously scheduled meeting Wednesday. They were advised by the ACC’s Medical Advisory Group, which is comprised of one health official from each of the ACC’s 15 schools. Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist, chairs the group.

The move comes amid a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases due to the highly contagious omicron variant, which causes breakthrough positive tests even among individuals who are fully vaccinated.

Two other conferences, the Big 12 and the Big West, reversed course and eliminated their forfeit policies on Tuesday.

Within the last week, Hall of Fame coaches Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse expressed a need for the ACC to revisit the forfeit policy. That rule had been instituted last summer at a time when health officials nationwide were incentivizing people to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 cases impacted both Duke and Syracuse over the last week as well as fellow ACC members Louisville, Florida State and Boston College.

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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is not happy with the call during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Syracuse at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, February 9, 2021. Ethan Hyman [email protected]

Wake Forest and Boston College had been scheduled to play Wednesday night. But, on Tuesday, the ACC announced Boston College couldn’t play due to COVID-19 cases and Wake Forest was awarded a forfeit win.

Unlike Syracuse, Boston College, Louisville and Florida State, Duke has not had to pause activities due to positive cases. But the Blue Devils saw two nonconference opponents, Cleveland State and Loyola (Maryland), back out of playing the Blue Devils last Saturday due to their COVID-19 cases. The Blue Devils were able to schedule Elon to play on 24 hours notice.

Duke assistant coach Nolan Smith, though, entered COVID-19 health and safety protocols and is not with the team. That caused Duke’s players and team staff to undergo COVID-19 tests three times over Friday and Saturday before being cleared to play the Elon game.

In women’s basketball, (*7*) when Sunday’s ACC game was canceled due to the Hurricanes being in COVID protocols.

This story was originally published December 22, 2021 12:42 PM.

Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. He placed second in both beat writing and breaking news in the 2019 Associated Press Sports Editors national contest. Previously, Steve worked for The State (Columbia, SC), Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.), The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.), Charlotte Observer and Hickory (NC) Daily Record covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly. He’s won numerous state-level press association awards. Steve graduated from Illinois State University in 1989.

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