University administrators of schools in the Big 12 conference are not yet willing to cancel the 2020 fall football season, and have agreed to push forward with a September start.
University presidents, chancellors, and athletic directors across the Big 12 met with medical experts for 90 minutes on Tuesday night before the conference’s executive board voted to continue moving forward with plans for a fall football season amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Athletic.
The board’s decision comes after two other Power 5 conferences, the Big Ten and Pac-12, announced that they were postponing the season until at least the spring. Along with the Big 12, the ACC and SEC are also still weighing options and looking for a way to play games in the fall.
Ahead of the vote, Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades told SicEm365 that he expected a vote on the future of the season.
“Do I feel we can move forward safely and put our student-athletes in the best possible position? I do. I believe that,” Rhoades said. “If I’m a student-athlete, though, and I’m a Big 12 student-athlete, an SEC student-athlete, an ACC student-athlete, I’m asking, ‘OK, sounds like the two other Power 5 conferences don’t think it’s safe. Why do you think it’s safe?’ And we better have a great answer. So this is … really, really tough, really, really complicated.”
“I feel like for me personally, and you could say, ‘Well, Mack, what more information are you waiting for?’ I feel like if I have to vote and make a decision today, I’m doing it because I’m placed in a corner and I would like to have a few more conversations and have a few more bits and pieces of information,” Rhoades said.
The Big 12 conference released a fall schedule on Wednesday showing a Sept. 26 start date for conference play. The board agreed to a “9+1” season, meaning one non-conference game to be played at the start of the season before conference play begins. The Athletic reports that most teams in the conference have already worked out non-conference opponents, though none have been officially announced so far.
Coaches and players have been publicly advocating to play the fall season as scheduled, including many who compete in the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences which have already called off the season. Some programs in those conferences have begun talks with outside conferences about the possibility of joining the conference temporarily for the 2020 fall season. Those talks have yet to yield any results, however.
Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, who competes in the SEC, has said that his players are much safer competing in the fall than they are spending it at home in their own communities. At the university, the coaching and training staff can monitor players and give regular tests for the coronavirus, as well as keep the players out of bars and other scenes where Saban says the players are more likely to contract COVID-19.
“I want to play, but I want to play for the players’ sake, the value they can create for themselves,” Saban said. “I know I’ll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don’t care about player safety. Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2% positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of July. It’s a lot higher than that in society. We act like these guys can’t get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they’re in a bar or just hanging out.”