College football and COVID-19: The changes conferences are making for 2020 season

Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – With the 2020-2021 college football season being less than a month away, the NCAA is still trying to coordinate schedules and take all the necessary precautions before the season starts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already affected the scheduling of many professional and collegiate sports which has included delays and postponements of seasons including the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo being pushed back to 2021.

Several conferences have released their initiatives to start their season’s amidst the pandemic. NCAA President Mark Emmert sent out a letter after a meeting with the Board of Governors expressing that they are “concerned” with starting the fall season and any postseason play thereafter. 

“We discussed other complexities in addition to the health and safety impacts, to include team availability, travel limitations and various local and state restrictions,” Emmert said.

Currently the first games are set to be played on Saturday, August 29, according to the NCAA. Several Division 1 conferences have already made announcements on their plan to follow through with the season with others still in the process of making a decision.

SEC

Update: 8/11

As of August 11, the SEC is standing firm in its decision to stay the course. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement on Twitter:

Earlier this month, the SEC’s university presidents have agreed upon a 10-game schedule that eliminates all non-conference opponents. The schedule is set to begin Sept. 26 with the SEC championship game being pushed back from December 5 to December 19. The preseason practice schedule has been pushed back. The first practice for teams will be August 17.

On August 7, the conference announced it will require football players and others in direct contact with the program to be tested at least twice weekly during the season.

Big 10

Update: 8/11

On August 11, the Big 10 became the first Power Five conference to announce it will cancel fall football and eye a potential spring season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Big 10 originally announced the conference would play a conference only schedule. The conference also announced that any athletes that decide to not participate in summer training or during the 2020-21 academic season due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team. 

ACC

Update: 8/11

The ACC tweeted the following statement on August 11: 

The ACC Board of Directors met in late July and voted on an 11-game full league schedule for the upcoming football season that includes Notre Dame, which is an FBS independent program. Notre Dame will also be eligible to play in the ACC Championship Game which is scheduled to be played either December 12 or 19 at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.

The season will start on September 11 with each team playing 10 conference games and one non-conference opponent of their choosing. The non-conference game must take place in the home state of the ACC institution, and all non-conference opponents must have met the medical protocol requirements as agreed upon by the ACC during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pac-12

Update: 8/11

The Pac-12 has canceled fall sports, including the college football season, until at least 2021. The unanimous decision was announced shortly after the Big 10 announced it was postponing fall sports.

The Pac-12 CEO Group originally announced July 31 all fall sports would be played under a conference-only schedule as well, leading for each football team in the conference to be on a 10-game schedule.

Big 12

The Big 12 Board of Directors announced Monday night  that Conference football programs will play a “9+1” schedule for the 2020 season consisting of nine conference games and one non-conference home opponent of their choosing. The Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship Game is scheduled for December 12 or 19.

“I would like to salute the work of our university presidents and chancellors, athletics directors, coaches, medical advisors and administrators who have worked tirelessly and collaboratively during these extraordinary times,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward.  However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”

Big East

On August 12, the Big East announced that there would be no fall sports “conducted in 2020.” The conference tweeted that they are assessing alternate options to possible have fall sports in the spring of 2021.

Ohio Valley Conference

Update: 8/14

The Ohio Valley Conference became the final FCS conference to pull the plug on the fall season when it announced it would postpone fall sports action and championships.

The OVC told each institution to plan to makeup the fall season in the spring.

Southern Conference

The Southern Conference announced on August 13 the league will postpone fall sports due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. The SoCon Council of Presidents decided Thursday that there will be no conference competition this fall, although non-conference contests will be allowed.

SoCon Commissioner Jim Schaus said that while the majority of conference presidents supported the postponement, the vote was not unanimous.

Ivy League

The Ivy League was the first division 1 conference to cancel fall sports for the 2020 season in early July. Several other conferences have followed in their footsteps since including the Atlantic 10, The American East, The Patriot League and The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

MAC

The Mid-American Conference announced August 8 that it would be postponing the fall season for all sports due to COVID-19 concerns.

Pioneer League

The Pioneer League will not play a fall football schedule, a decision that likely means there will be no FCS playoffs this season. The conference said in a statement, released on August 7, the challenges related to team travel, meeting state, local and institutional health requirements and COVID-19 mitigation strategies led to the decision. The Pioneer League said it would consider playing a football season at another point in the school year if feasible.

Independent

Earlier this week, the University of Connecticut became the first FBS team to cancel its football season. The Huskies were scheduled to play Middle Tennessee State University on November 21.

It’s a season of change for football. From the NFL to high school, News 2 digs deeper into the impact COVID-19 is having on the game.
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