FARGO — For North Dakota State, the march is still on to defend its Division I FCS national championship. The NCAA Board of Governors on Friday delayed any action on the NCAA-sponsored tournament.
Or, with the country in a downward spiral with the COVID-19 pandemic, is it a stay of execution?
At the least, it means the Bison, winners of eight of the last nine FCS titles including the last two, are still alive in trying to make it a four-peat in 2020. How long that lasts, however, is still to be determined.
“Today the Board of Governors and I agreed that we must continue to thoughtfully and aggressively monitor health conditions around the country and the implementation of the COVID-19 guidelines we issued last week," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. "We all remain deeply concerned about the infection trend lines we see. It is clear that the format of our championships will have to change if they are to be conducted in a safe and fair manner. We discussed other complexities in addition to the health and safety impacts, to include team availability, travel limitations and various local and state restrictions. We will continue our discussions in August."
The Missouri Valley Football Conference presidents are expected to make their path known sometime next week. The Valley league office on Friday said it wanted to wait until next week before making any comment.
The Big Sky Conference took a similar stance with commissioner Tom Wistrcill saying on the league’s virtual media day that no decisions will be made this week regarding non-conference play.
The Board of Governors is made up of 25 people from Division I, II and II as well as selected independent individuals. The FCS representatives are Pennsylvania athletic director Grace Calhoun, Morgan State (Md.) president David Wilson and Bryant University (R.I.) president Ronald Machtley.
Pennsylvania’s Ivy League and Morgan State’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Association have already canceled fall football. Bryant plays in the Northeast Conference.
On the flipside, the chair of the committee is Ohio State president Michael Drake with four other schools from Power Five conferences having representation.
Sportswriter Pete Thamel, a national football reporter for Yahoo Sports, in a tweet said the makeup of the board had some big-time FBS schools on edge.
“There’s only one AD on the (Board of Governors) - Penn’s Grace Calhoun - and the disparate nature of the group has folks in the Power 5 nervous,” Thamel wrote. “The DII and DIII administrators there have an interesting angle, as they don’t need sports for TV revenues like the SEC.”
Besides the Ivy and MEAC, the Patriot League, Colonial Athletic Association and Southwest Athletic Conference have canceled fall football. Two CAA schools, James Madison and Elon, said they will play an independent schedule this fall.
Greg Madia, who covers JMU for the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va., reported Friday that the Dukes would have to make the playoffs as an at-large selection and that it’s possible the 24-team tournament field could be reduced. NDSU and JMU have been the two powers of the FCS in recent years with the Dukes interrupting NDSU’s eight-of-nine title streak in 2016.
The Bison defeated the Dukes in last year’s championship game.