The Big 12 Conference still is holding out hope it can play a complete football season this fall, but each day, as a few more dominoes fall, that hope seems less and less likely.
Though the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced their intentions to play conference-only schedules this fall, the three other Power 5 leagues – the Big 12, ACC and SEC – have not yet revealed any alternative plans other than playing as scheduled.
Obviously, though, officials from those conferences also have additional options that they may be forced to implement.
Those options would seemingly include:
Plan A – A full schedule this fall
Plan B – Going to a conference-only slate
Plan C – Splitting the season between the fall and the spring
Plan D – Moving all games to the spring
Plan E – Some other variation
Plan F – Cancelling the season altogether
Cancelling the football season completely would certainly be the last option because of the financial ramifications it would entail for all athletic departments. It’s estimated that WVU alone would lose at least $40 million if it does not have a football season.
All levels of football are making similar decisions about the coming fall. Because the start of the regular season is as few as five weeks away, those decisions need to be made in a hurry.
Many are starting to reveal their choices now, while others, like the Big 12, are trying to wait a little longer before they make a move.
The NCAA Football Oversight Committee, headed by WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons, has sent a letter on the topic to the NCAA Board of Governors, urging that group to delay canceling or postponing fall sports championships. The Board of Governors is set to meet on Friday, July 24, and could, but is not guaranteed, to propose or vote on a cancellation or postponement. Such a decision would affect every fall sport championship except FBS bowls, which are not run by the NCAA.
The NFL is getting ready to open its preseason camp with the hope of playing its complete schedule this fall, though the number of fans who will be able to attend those games still is in question. Philadelphia city officials have already said the Eagles will not be able to have fans in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field, and other pro squads may find themselves under similar constraints.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that college athletic events in his state can be played this fall, but fans will not be allowed in the stands for those home games. That means Syracuse and other colleges in New York will play in front of empty arenas at home, if indeed there is a fall season.
In New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging both the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State to postpone all their fall sports. If they follow through with that suggestion, the Lobos and Aggies would be the first FBS programs to completely postpone/cancel their 2020 season.
Many others at the FCS, Division II and Division III level have already done so, though.
On Wednesday, the Mountain East Conference, a 13-team D-II league of which 10 are West Virginia colleges, announced that it was delaying the start of all competition for its fall sports until no earlier than Oct. 1. Any contests in football and other teams sports that were originally scheduled for September will now be pushed to the spring semester. And, of course, that is subject to further change if COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the coming months.
The MEC is far from the first to alter its fall slate. Among the FCS conferences, the Ivy, Patriot, Colonial, MEAC and SWAC have already postponed fall competition and plan on playing their games in the spring. A couple teams from the CAA, though – James Madison and Elon – are making arrangements to continue to play this fall, if the NCAA keeps its FCS playoffs in November and December.
A number of Division II conferences, like the MEC, are making changes. The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, of which Shepherd (W.Va.) University is a member, has suspended football and all other sports this fall with an eye towards moving those seasons to the spring.
In all, 10 D-II leagues and eight D-IIIs have already postponed all fall sports competition with the idea that each will – hopefully – play in the spring.
The dominoes also are falling in the high school ranks.
In West Virginia, the WVSSAC has pushed the beginning of football season back one week and also delayed the start of other fall sports.
High school football in California, Virginia, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., has been postponed in its entirety until spring.
Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington state are, like West Virginia, delaying their high school football seasons by a week or two. New Jersey high schools won’t begin gridiron competition until Oct. 1, and the largest classifications in Texas (6A and 5A) are pushing back the start of their high school seasons five weeks. When Texas high school football is forced to change, that should give everyone an idea of how serious things are.
For those who haven’t made a decision yet on what to do with the fall sports schedule, like the Big 12, time is running short to make a change. If preseason football practice starts at West Virginia on Aug. 7 and no announcement has been made about altering the fall slate, than the odds are things will move forward basically as planned.
With so many dominoes falling, though, it seems more and more inevitable that the Big 12 and the others are going to soon have to make some changes as well.