WEST LAFAYETTE -- Currently ranked No. 3 in the nation, the Purdue men's basketball team hopes to be playing well past February and deep into March Madness.
A tournament run is a thrilling experience for the players, coaches and the scores of Purdue fans watching games in person or on television. But with COVID-19 omicron outbreaks striking basketball programs across the country, simply playing the next game on the schedule is not guaranteed.
Tuesday, the Big Ten revised its COVID-19 forfeit policy. If a team cannot meet the threshold for what the conference deems safe competition (seven available scholarship players and at least one available countable coach), the game will be rescheduled instead of being ruled a forfeit as was the case under the previous guidelines.
Only in cases where a team cannot reasonably demonstrate why it cannot meet that safety threshold will the game be considered a forfeit.
Purdue basketball is doing its part to prevent any forfeitures this season as 100% of team staff and players have received the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot.
"It was a collective effort," Purdue guard Brandon Newman. "We know that we want to be playing for a while, (getting vaccinated), was a big part of that.
"Just doing our part really, to be able to give ourselves a chance to compete in a game and limit the chance of any cancellations or any games being postponed."
Freshman forward Caleb Furst missed Wednesday's 104-90 win over Nicholls due to health and safety protocols. Purdue coach Matt Painter said Furst is "going through protocol" and trending in the right direction.
Under the 2021 NCAA guidelines released in August, a fully vaccinated player who is in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual can be removed from quarantine if a negative test is produced within three to five days. If a player — vaccinated or not — tests positive, they must isolate for 10 days and go 24 hours without fever and other symptoms.
In the Big Ten, day-to-day testing protocols are decided by its member schools. The Big Ten women's basketball season has already dealt with COVID-related pauses.
Painter said the basketball program is doing everything in its power to stay healthy. By staying above the necessary threshold to play a game, the Boilermakers can maintain cohesion and provide a quality on court product for its supports.
"You just hope for the best... Hopefully we can have that full experience for our players, our fans, everybody," Painter said. "Not all of our fans get to come to our games, (fans) watch a lot on television. So if (vaccinations) can happen across the country, that would be great."
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Purdue basketball 2021-22: Boilermakers have 100% vaccination rate