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Drake vs. Northern Iowa MVC Tournament game canceled due to COVID-19

COVID-19 tests in the UNI program will end the Panthers season ahead of their quarterfinal with Drake.

Roman Penn of the Drake Bulldogs drives the ball as Nate Heise of the Northern Iowa Panthers defends in the first half of play at Knapp Center on February 10, 2021 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Drake Bulldogs won 80-59 over the Northern Iowa Panthers. Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images

It was bound to happen eventually. The No. 7 Northern Iowa Panthers have personnel test positive for COVID-19, and will forfeit their quarterfinal game against the No. 2 Drake Bulldogs in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis.

The news was first reported by Jeff Goodman of Stadium.

Here’s the official statement from the Missouri Valley Conference, which includes some pretty amazing quotes from league commissioner Doug Elgin.

“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,” said Commissioner Doug Elgin.

“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.”

To have a tournament in 2021 and not realize what the COVID-19 restrictions and policies are in the jurisdiction you’re holding it is pretty remarkable. Someone at the league office has some serious explaining to do.

Drake is the No. 2 seed in the event, and had yet to play a game. The Panthers defeated No. 10 Illinois State 65-60 in the opening round on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals. Drake closed as a seven-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.

By the rules established for conference tournament events, the team that has a protocol violation or a positive test in the Tier 1 personnel are taken out of events, but the rest of the tournament and bracket proceed as if the game was forfeited.

The Panthers finish their season at 10-15, 7-11 in the MVC. They’ll win three consecutive games to end the 2020-21 season, all of them over the Illinois State Redbirds: Two via a doubleheader last weekend, as well as Thursday night’s contest.