If Alabama football can’t play LSU, should the Tigers be forced to forfeit?
Alabama football was preparing to play the LSU Tigers this week, but COVID-19 cases in Baton Rouge have forced this game to be postponed. While a postponement sounds fine, LSU does not have an open week until after the SEC Championship. Unless the SEC title game is moved back, this game will almost certainly be canceled.
If that ends up happening, we are in a strange situation. Alabama will have to wait to get their revenge. LSU would be the only reason why this game would be canceled. Since the Tigers had players attend a Halloween party, the Crimson Tide are left without an opponent. With the blame being lopsided, should the Tigers be forced to forfeit Saturday’s game?
There is a lot that goes into this decision. For starters, it would be all or nothing. If LSU has to forfeit against Alabama, Florida should have to forfeit against LSU. That would not be in the SEC’s best interests as it cancels potential games entirely in the name of fairness. The SEC wants to play as many games as possible, which would not happen if you force any team to forfeit.
Also, what about games where both teams are unavailable? Both the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks right now. If neither team is able to play, how would that situation be handled?
While it is tempting to punish teams for being the reasons games are canceled, that is not the proper way to handle this situation. The SEC should handle the fuse and not the explosion. If they want to punish LSU because players broke the rules and attended a Halloween party, then that is fair. However, you cannot solely punish the teams when the games are canceled. That would encourage teams to minimize the number of unavailable players, but that might be done immorally. Teams might be incentivized to allow injured players to play so that the game is not an automatic loss. They might not quarantine proper players due to the risk of forfeiting a game.
I realize the temptation for Alabama football fans here. They want LSU to be punished if this game is not played. However, it is not as simple as making them forfeit. As always, this situation is complex and needs to be viewed from all perspectives. I rarely agree with the SEC, but not forcing teams to forfeit is the right thing to do. LSU’s punishment will come to them whenever they have to play the Crimson Tide again.