The University of Northern Iowa's men's basketball season came to an end Friday. It just took a while to figure out why.
The Missouri Valley Conference canceled the Panthers's conference tournament quarterfinal game against Drake on Friday due to a COVID-19 issue, with little communication about the circumstances that led to the cancellation. It took hours for the conference to release a statement, and the statement was a whopper when it was eventually published.
What happened to Northern Iowa's season
Basically, a member of the UNI program tested positive for COVID-19 and confusion ensued.
While MVC policy would have allowed the game to play on, the conference was not aware that the St. Louis City’s Board of Health had the final say on whether or not the game would be played. There was an apparent miscommunication between the MVC and St. Louis, and Northern Iowa ended up paying the price.
The 10-15 Panthers won't be playing in the NCAA Tournament or other postseason tournaments, so this will be the end of the line for the team.
MVC commissioner Doug Elgin apologized for the situation, saying he took full responsibility for not properly communicating with the city hosting his tournament.
The key part of Elgin's statement:
"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.”
The kicker? Cole Bair of Iowa's 1650 The Fan reports there is a belief that the positive test in question was either false or not properly administered, and attempts to prove it were denied by St. Louis. There was also the fact that Bradley also had a positive COVID-19 test Thursday and managed to keep playing in the same tournament thanks to a timely second test.
Northern Iowa athletic department David Harris later released a statement saying he was "frustrated and angry" about the situation, particularly with what was revealed in the conference statement.
According to CBS Sports' Matt Norlander, Northern Iowa is the fourth Division I team to be eliminated from its conference tournament due to COVID-19, joining Jacksonville, Charleston Southern and Holy Cross. It likely won't be the last.
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