SEC teams across all sports that are unable to compete in a conference game during the 2021-22 athletic year because of COVID-19 or other reasons will be issued a forfeit in the league standings.
The SEC announced as much in a statement Monday while clarifying the commissioner can declare a "no contest" if there are "extraordinary circumstances" in play:
"In the event a team is unable to begin or complete a regular season Conference event due to the unavailability of participants (due to COVID-19, injuries or other reasons), that team will forfeit the contest and will be assigned a loss in the Conference standings. The opposing team that is ready to play will be credited with a win in the Conference standings. Both teams will be deemed to have played and completed the contest for purpose of the Conference standings.
"If both teams are unable to compete due to the unavailability of participants (due to COVID-19, injuries or other reasons), both teams shall be deemed to have forfeited the game, with a loss assigned to both teams and applied to the conference standings. Both teams will be deemed to have played and completed the contest for purpose of the Conference standings."
The SEC's announcement explained schools that suffer financial losses because games do not happen can request reimbursement that will need approval from the league's executive committee.
This largely follows policies in place across the other Power Five conferences as well.
Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports noted teams in the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 also have policies in place calling for a forfeit if a team cannot play because of COVID-19 issues. The ACC does as well, although both teams will be given a loss if they both have COVID-19 issues that prevent the game from happening.
Much of the 2020 college football season was defined by working around COVID concerns, although there were a number of games canceled across the conferences because teams could not field enough players to participate.
Among the games that were canceled or postponed was the rivalry showdown between Ohio State and Michigan, an SEC clash between Alabama and LSU, and an ACC game between Clemson and Florida State.
Games that were canceled simply didn't go on the conference standings, which resulted in teams playing a vastly different number of games during the season.
In fact, Clemson played 11 games before the College Football Playoff while Ohio State played just six, although that didn't stop the Buckeyes from defeating the Tigers by 21 points in their national semifinal matchup.
While teams may play a different number of games this year, the total number of contests in the standings figures to be much closer with these new forfeiture rules in place.