When the NCAA announced at 2 a.m. on June 26, 2021, that the College World Series game between Vanderbilt University and North Carolina State would be no-contest, lots of fans and players were left disappointed. As a result, Vanderbilt advanced to the College World Series finals, and North Carolina's season ended. What happened to NC State's baseball team that led to their season ending? Here's everything we know.
The College World Series game between NC State and Vanderbilt hinged on COVID-19 protocols.
Not only is the NCAA's decision to end NC State's season early crippling due to their hard-earned win streak, but because they started the season with a devastating loss from which many thought the team wouldn't recover. They needed one more victory to reach the championship series — but unfortunately, they would never get the chance to earn that victory thanks to the NCAA's COVID-19 protocols.
As of June 25, a day before the game was supposed to take place, NC State only had nine available players and four pitchers, according to USA Today. Comparatively speaking, typical Major League Baseball teams can have up to 40 players, with most teams having an average of 26 active players per team.
The reason COVID-19 protocols were in question might have something to do with two unvaccinated NC State players testing positive for the virus the week of the scheduled game, leading to the rest of the team being tested (as per typical protocol). According to D1baseball.com, the result was four positive players. Later, it turned out the four tests were all from vaccinated players present in the dugout Friday, the day before NC State's season was terminated.
The NCAA's official rules regarding COVID-19 and testing include: "Fully vaccinated student-athletes and other Tier 1 individuals with no COVID-19-like symptoms may be exempt from routine testing. Student-athletes and other Tier 1 participants who are not vaccinated must continue to undergo testing at NCAA championships." However, the guidelines also note that if there is a high rate of transmission in the area, vaccinated individuals may be tested as well, just in case.
Following the reveal of the positive players, NC State coach Elliott Avent claimed it wasn't his place to tell his players to get vaccinated — even if not being vaccinated potentially prevented them from being able to play.
He said, "My job is to teach them baseball, make sure they get an education and keep them on the right track forward. But I don’t try to indoctrinate my kids with my values or my opinions. Obviously, we talk about a lot of things, but these are young men that can make their own decisions. And that’s what they did."
Many sports professionals are criticizing the NCAA's decision.
When the NCAA announcement reached the public, many were publicly outraged at the last-minute timing of the decision, the unwillingness to give more information, and general dismay after NC State's hard-earned win streak.
CBS Sports anchor Danny Kanell tweeted, "Hey @ncaa you won’t let NC State players continue to play but you’ll allow 23,000 untested, unvaccinated, and potential unmasked fans attend??? What about player safety? Oh wait … that’s not truly what your protocols are about are they?" He was joined in outrage by WFLA political reporter Evan Donovan and The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach.
Despite the unpopularity of the situation, the NCAA has the final say. Perhaps next year NC State will come back stronger than ever and lead their team to victory.