FARGO — North Dakota State's football team will lose another game because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference won't play fall sports, including football, in 2020. The conference made the announcement Thursday, July 16.
That means the Bison won't play MEAC member North Carolina A&T, which was scheduled to visit the Fargodome for a Sept. 19 game. It was an anticipated matchup between the three-time defending Division I Football Championship Subdivision national champion Bison and the best historically black college and university program in the Aggies.
“It’s disappointing again to lose another opportunity,” North Dakota State athletic director Matt Larsen said. “The one thing that I’ve learned throughout this whole thing — football and sports are not just about the state of North Dakota, you’re looking all across the country, and every part of the country is in different places and different situations. We certainly respect the decision of folks who have decided to cancel or postpone and understand that, but it doesn’t make it any easier for North Dakota State.”
It's the second game NDSU has lost this season as the United States struggles to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Highly touted Oregon, a top FBS program, was supposed to host the Bison in early September, but the Pac-12 Conference also canceled all nonconference games. NDSU hasn't played an FBS and Power Five conference opponent since 2016.
The Bison are now down to one nonconference game, which is scheduled for Sept. 12 against Drake at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. They currently have nine scheduled games with Missouri Valley Football Conference play slated to start Sept. 26 at Northern Iowa.
Larsen said Drake still intended to play the Bison in the last conversation he had with the school, which is located in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I think things continue to evolve, but until we hear differently we’re going to plan on them being here,” Larsen said.
Larsen said NDSU would be willing to fill the open dates after losing the Oregon and North Carolina A&T games, but that is a fluid situation.
“We’ve had some good conversations with some other schools and I think there’s interest,” Larsen said. “I think a lot of folks are waiting to see what happens in the next week to 10 days.”
Larsen said a conference-only MVFC schedule for fall could be an option at some point, but the league hasn’t taken a close look at that scenario yet.
“I think anything is an option at this point. We haven’t gone into real deep conversations about that,” Larsen said. “I think most leagues at this point are looking at a multitude of options with the ultimate goal of getting a college football season in, in one way, shape or form. If it came to conference-only, I’m sure that’s something we would consider.”
The Bison are scheduled to report for fall football camp Aug. 6 with practice set to start the next day.
“Our hope is to still move forward with a fall season and that’s our plan right now," Larsen said.