FARGO — The NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision landscape has changed in the last week or so as two conferences announced they won’t play fall sports due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two FCS conferences are out.
The Ivy League broke the news last week that it wouldn’t be playing games in the fall, with the Patriot League following suit earlier this week. The Patriot League holds an automatic bid to the postseason. The Ivy League doesn’t participate in the FCS playoffs.
“When the Ivy League made their decision, I think everyone in our conference started to look at the tea leaves a little bit and say this is something that might happen,” Colgate head coach Dan Hunt said earlier this week on WDAY-970’s Hot Mic with Dom Izzo radio show.
North Dakota State football fans are familiar with Hunt, who led his Raiders into the Fargodome during the 2018 FCS playoffs. The Bison earned a 35-0 victory against Colgate in the national quarterfinals.
(Dan Hunt interview starts around 37:45)
The Patriot League announced Monday, July 13, its intention to not play fall sports. Hunt said it was difficult to break the news to his players.
“You could see it coming, you could tell it was probably in our future, but still when it becomes real and you see it in writing it’s a tough day,” Hunt said. “You cherish being able to play and all the work that goes into it and to see that kind of taken away, it’s hard. It’s hard to look into their eyes.”
The Big Ten Conference and Pac-12 Conference, both Power Five leagues, recently announced they are going to only play conference games for fall sports. Those decisions also affected FCS programs. For example, the Bison were scheduled to play at the University of Oregon, a Pac-12 member, on Sept. 5 in what would have been a highly anticipated FBS vs. FCS matchup. That game was canceled.
“I think everyone that was an FCS fan was dying to see that game,” Hunt said.
Hunt hopes to see football back again sooner than later, but knows that could be a challenge.
“I’m hoping to God there’s football somewhere,” Hunt said. “I think America needs football, but again it has to be safe and it has to be right. … I think it’s going to be really hard.”
Before the Patriot League decided to not play fall sports, Hunt said trying to prepare for a season with COVID-19 guidelines was a challenge. For example, he said his coaching staff were going to use electric whistles and there was a play to not have the team’s starting quarterback and backup quarterback in the same room.
“All these little things,” Hunt said. “I was worried that the product was going to get so watered down. Were we really going to be able to train them and put a quality product on the field.”
Hunt said the Patriot League hasn’t ruled out the potential of playing some semblance of a football season next spring. Even though that would also present difficulties, Hunt would be on board to make it work, especially for his seniors.
“If that’s what happens, OK. I think everyone on our team would sign up for that and take it,” Hunt said. “I would love to be able to do that for our guys. … I would do it and figure it out moving forward.”