CARBONDALE — The Big 12 Board of Directors voted Tuesday night to proceed with plans for its members to play fall sports, moving its start date back to Sept. 2 and announcing stricter testing protocols for COVID-19.
The Big Ten Conference and the Pac-12 announced Tuesday they were calling off fall sports for 2020 and concentrating on how they could possibly compete next spring. The Big 12, ACC and SEC are still pushing to play this fall, so far. SIU's football team is watching the developments closely this week, as it has an Aug. 29 game scheduled at Big 12 member Kansas that carries a $300,000 payout.
Liz Jarnigan, the Salukis' athletic director, said last week they want to play the two football games they currently have on their schedule and, possibly, find a third after the Missouri Valley Football Conference called off its league season for the fall. Jarnigan said SIU's game at Kansas would likely move back from its current Aug. 29 date.
The MVFC hopes to play its league season next spring, but is allowing its members to play up to three non-conference opponents this fall if they choose to.
It is not clear if anybody that plays in those three games, as an example, would be eligible to compete next spring, or if they would be eligible for only some of them, or neither. There will be no FCS playoffs this fall, as the number of eligible teams for the postseason fell below 50%, which was one of the stipulations by the NCAA Board of Governors to have a playoff, but there could be next spring. The association has given no indication of if the three Power Five conferences would compete for their own national championship this fall, if they go ahead with a schedule, and then another one next spring. The NCAA also hasn't addressed if any fifth-year seniors who graduate in December will have to take any classes in order to compete next spring.
"We have a College Football Playoff call next week and we'll obviously talk about this. It's going to be a while into the season before all that is resolved," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday. "There probably isn't any obvious reason why it couldn't work to continue to try to play a postseason, but you're looking at a December-January time frame right in the heart of the virus season. I just think it's too early. We're going to have to be patient."
The Big 12 intends to have its members play a "9+1" football schedule this fall, with nine conference games beginning Sept. 26 and one home non-conference game that is to take place after Sept. 1. Each team will have at least two bye dates and, potentially, a third late in the season. The Big 12 championship game is scheduled for Dec. 12.
Individual Big 12 programs are expected to announce their non-conference matchups. Kansas and SIU have been in talks to keep the Salukis as the Jayhawks' one non-conference game. KU is also scheduled to host Boston College and go to Coastal Carolina. Boston College, bound by the ACC, is only allowed to play a non-conference game at home against another team from its home state, so it is definitely going to Lawrence. KU has not officially announced it will play SIU as its lone non-conference game this fall.
Big 12 members have committed to testing its staff and players for COVID-19 three times a week in "high contact" sports, football, volleyball and soccer. Any non-conference teams that play a Big 12 member in those sports would have to commit to that same standard the week leading up to competition. Anybody that tests positive will undergo an EKG, troponin blood test, echocardiogram and cardiac MRI.
Big 12 volleyball and soccer teams will only play conference matches this fall, the league announced.
The Big 12 Board of Directors said it believes sports can be played safely this fall, but also cautioned that things could change.
"Our student-athletes want to compete, and it is the board’s collective opinion that sports can be conducted safely and in concert with the best interests of their well-being," said TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini, who is the chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors. "We remain vigilant in monitoring the trends and effects of COVID 19 as we learn more about the virus. If at any point our scientists and doctors conclude that our institutions cannot provide a safe and appropriate environment for our participants, we will change course."
— The Associated Press contributed to this story
On Twitter: @THefferman
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