When I heard last night's women's basketball game between Windsor and McMaster was postponed, I naturally assumed it was the weather. We didn't get a lot of snow here in the Hamilton area, but there were varying forecasts, and perhaps the 401 was in bad shape, and there's also this strike on the Mac campus, and maybe all those things together add up to a postponement.
But, of course, the men's teams were still scheduled to play, so that obviously wasn't it. In the three seconds between learning of the postponement and finding and reading the McMaster media release, I was trying to figure out what the reason was, and when I found out it was because Mac didn't have enough players...I was confused.
Not having enough players is normally a cause for forfeiting the game, not merely postponing it. (Well, unless a flu epidemic hits.) RMC had to forfeit two games last year due to a short bench. Injuries and "academic restrictions" sound quite similar to Mac's situation, though I stand to be corrected on that (I contacted McMaster and the OUA and will update this post if I hear back from either of them).
Lancers coach Chantal Vallée also wondered why last night's game was merely postponed, telling one Windsor newspaper, "I can't believe the OUA would set such a dangerous [precedent]. At this point, I'm more frustrated by the situation than empathetic."
Vallée has a point. It's surely not the first time there has been a very strange precedent set regarding basketball forfeitures in CIS. The Trinity Western men's team dressed too many players in the playoffs in 2009, beating Victoria in the process, and rather than forcing them to forfeit the series, Canada West merely fined the team and suspended the coach. If a cost-benefit argument can be made for breaking the rules in that situation, what would stop another school from inventing illnesses and injuries to avoid a game for which they were ill-prepared? (Other than common sense and fair play, of course, and I doubt anyone in CIS would game the system to that extent.)
And as others have pointed out, dealing with injuries is part of sports, and it's possible that Mac could have added players earlier in the year, or once the injuries hit. They're also not the only team to play with a short bench--for much of last year, it seemed Guelph's women's team was dressing only eight or nine players.
But context is important here. These are "tough times" for the Marauders, with five players now out for the year, and nobody wants to force anyone to forfeit a game. In Mac's most recent game, they lost by 50 points to Western and only six players saw more than seven minutes of court time. It's not clear that an 89-39 game has much benefit to the participants (let alone the fans and media watching it) so postponing these games until both sides can offer a competitive team is certainly a defensible decision.
And Vallée later said in an e-mail, that while her frustration was borne out of confusion at the postponed-not-forfeited game, she and her team have put it behind them.
"I understand Mac's situation. It is not a place where any coach of a team wants to be, so I am glad we got it resolved and are playing later on.
"We've already moved on."
The "later on" will be Sunday, February 6, the day after the Lancers host Laurier and the Marauders play at Brock. It will be the third of four games in eight days for both teams.