The Cowboys dealt with an unforeseen scenario last month when they had to cancel a scheduled Dec. 31 home game against Dillard University because it would have exceeded their limit on non-Division I basketball games this season.
But that’s nothing compared to what several of their conference brethren are dealing with.
Three Southland basketball programs — the Oral Roberts and Stephen F. Austin men and Southeastern Louisiana women — will have to forfeit games against SLC newcomers this season due to the same rule.
Oral Roberts announced on Tuesday that it will forfeit road games against transitional SLC members Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian.
On Wednesday, the league announced SFA will have to forfeit a Feb. 1 home game against Incarnate Word, while the SLU women are forfeiting Saturday’s game against Abilene Christian.
Playing those games would have put those three schools in violation of NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, which reads “An institution may schedule and play not more than four basketball games, including any contest (e.g., scrimmage, exhibition), in an academic year against institutions that are not members of Division I (Revised: 3/1/12).”
Had ORU, SFA or SLU played the game, it would have rendered them ineligible for postseason play next season.
“There is nothing good in any of this, but we are reacting to an NCAA rule,” said Southland Commissioner Tom Burnett.
Burnett said league schools should have been aware of the fact Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word were not D-I games this season and adjusted their nonconference schedules accordingly.
“The long-standing rule is you could play four non-DI opponents,” Burnett said. “Once upon a time that was four regular-season games. They changed that to include exhibition games. How well that has been communicated by the NCAA to members is up for debate. Certainly we’ve spent a lot of time trying to explain that’s what this rule includes.”
All of the schools facing forfeits had at least one exhibition game on their schedules.
Southeastern Louisiana was in the most unique situation, unexpectedly getting a non-DI game on its schedule when it faced probationary program Grand Canyon University in the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament.
“Grand Canyon is considered an RPI-counter because they play a full Division I schedule, but is not a schedule-counter,” Burnett said. “I think the tournament promoter, who was trying to fill out their field, convinced (SLU coach) Lori Jones they counted when they don’t.”
In the future, Burnett said the league will be more active when it comes to approving the non-conference schedules of member teams.
“We’re not involved outside of conference scheduling. Will we have closer scrutiny on schedules in the future? I think that’s obvious at this point,” Burnett said. “There’s a lot of rules in that 500-page NCAA book. A lot of things slip through the cracks and it’s not good for anybody.
“This was the fix that we believe is our only pathway. In the future there will be a very thorough schedule certification before schools can release them publicly or play the games.”