UNI Left Spirit-less In St. Louis
The 2021 season will certainly be a memorable one for fans and everyone associated with the UNI men's basketball program, and not necessarily in a good way.
The Panthers' campaign came to an abrupt and premature end at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis late Friday afternoon. UNI didn't even take the court.
League officials canceled the quarterfinal game between the seventh-seeded Panthers and No. 2-seed Drake, about an hour or so before the in-state rivals were scheduled to play at 5 PM. A positive COVID-19 test involving the UNI program apparently caused the cancelation, although there was no immediate announcement about why the game wasn't being played.
Here's the entire MVC statement:
The Missouri Valley Conference has cancelled the third quarterfinal game of the 2021 State Farm MVC Tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test result (and subsequent contract tracing) among the University of Northern Iowa’s Tier I personnel, which consists of student-athletes, coaches, managers and staff. As a result, Drake – UNI’s scheduled opponent -- will advance to Saturday’s semifinals and will play the winner of the Missouri State-Valparaiso game, which will be played at 8 p.m. tonight as originally scheduled. Each MVC program is required to undergo daily COVID-19 testing for the week preceding and throughout Arch Madness. Beginning Wednesday (March 3), Mercy Corporate Health has partnered with the Conference to conduct a nightly PCR test of each team's Tier 1 personnel at Enterprise Center. UNI's positive result was discovered as part of Thursday evening’s testing. For the MVC’s championship at Enterprise Center, decisions relating to the safe navigation of tournament play are ultimately made by St. Louis City’s Board of Health, which includes the implementation of contact tracing guidelines outlined by the CDC and the City of St. Louis. Utilizing the City of St. Louis guidelines, contact tracing revealed that UNI did not have enough available players to compete.
“UNI and other institutions ultimately relied on Conference policies that have been in place all season and were thought to be applicable here at the tournament. It should be noted UNI followed those procedures during their participation in the event. However, the City of St. Louis Board of Health Department COVID orders take precedence over MVC protocols, and none of our institutions were aware that this was in place. In all prior communication we had with St. Louis’ local health authorities, we had clearly indicated that the MVC adhered to C.D.C. guidelines and NCAA Resocialization Guidelines. The MVC did not have the necessary conversations with local health officials to clarify that the administration of the tournament would be governed by St. Louis Health Commissioner’s COVID orders. I apologize and take full responsibility for not resolving the administration of policies that are in place during this year’s tournament.
-- MVC Commissior Doug Elgin
MVC athletically-related activities will take place only to the extent permitted by local environments and applicable national, state, local and institutional guidelines in order to safeguard the health and safety of participants, staff and fans. Refunds will be made available to all ticket buyers at their original point of purchase. For tickets purchased through ticketmaster.com, tickets will be automatically refunded.
As a result of the cancelation, UNI's season is over. The Bulldogs advance to the MVC Tournament semifinals on Saturday at 3:05 PM, when they'll face either Missouri State or Valparaiso.
In a tweet, UNI Athletic Director David Harris expressed his feelings about the abrupt end to the season.