Oral Roberts isn’t the only Southland Conference team to have to forfeit a game (in ORU’s case, two games) due to the NCAA rule on the number of games a Division I program can play against non-Division I members, as Stephen F. Austin will have to do the same for its February 1 date with Incarnate Word.
With the 13-2 Lumberjacks, the preseason favorites to win the Southland, already having played three games against non-Division I competition games against Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word (provisional members) would put them at five games if both were counted. And with the Abilene Christian game scheduled for January 30, the Incarnate Word game is the one that will be forfeited by the Lumberjacks. According to the school, while the forfeit will impact the Southland standings and count as a loss the NCAA will recognize it as a no contest, and that’s a pretty big deal for Stephen F. Austin.
Why? Because the Lumberjacks currently have a 26-game home win streak, and the no contest ruling means that the cancelled game will not impact the streak (should SFA beat Abilene Christian on January 30, of course).
“We mistakenly did not count the exhibition game as one of the four non-Division I games we are allowed to play,” director of athletics Robert Hill said in the release. “When the ORU issue was raised this week, we immediately realized that we also would exceed the four allowable games and notified the Southland Conference office. It is our responsibility to know the rules and we accept the penalty. There were plenty of eyes on our schedule and we did not catch it.”
Obviously for both Oral Roberts and Stephen F. Austin it’s their responsibility to be aware of the scheduling rules and the impact that the addition of two provisional Division I members to the Southland would have. But even with this being the case, having two programs forfeit games caused in part by the expansion of the conference isn’t the best look for the Southland.
The question now is whether or not any other programs may have to do the same. Hopefully that won’t be the case.