FARGO — The show will go on with the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The league on Monday released a statement saying it will continue to allow its 11-member schools to begin fall practice next week.
But the lights went out on North Dakota State's last scheduled non-conference game because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pioneer Football League on Monday canceled all non-league games, meaning the Bison and Pioneer member Drake University (Iowa) Sept. 12 contest is off.
That follows on the heels of the Pac-12 Conference canceling non-league games, which put the NDSU and Oregon game out of business. North Carolina A&T's league, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, canceled fall football altogether thus ending A&T's trip to Fargo on Sept. 19.
It leaves NDSU's season opener at Northern Iowa on Sept. 26 and the home opener at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome as Oct. 3 against Illinois State. That doesn't mean it's set in stone and athletic director Matt Larsen said Monday "we've had some good conversations with some places."
"Before we finalize anything, we're going to gauge where the next week to 10 days take us," he said. "We definitely have some options, which is promising. At least there are a couple of irons in the fire."
At the least, it puts NDSU's sold-out season ticket base of 12,500 in limbo for September. Essentially, with single-game tickets gone, an entire season's worth of sold-out games could be hanging in the balance with FCS leagues trending toward not playing.
Asked what advice he would give season ticket holders, Larsen said to "hang in there."
"I still think there a lot of questions, probably more questions than answers," Larsen said. "We are highly motivated as are a lot of places to have a college football season. Our goal is to get it done in the fall and if not look at other options. As we get information, we'll pass that along. Whether there are additional games or an adjustment to the schedule, just hang in there with us."
The Valley also appears to be waiting on the next week to 10 days. The league and its Presidents Council said it's going to continue to monitor national developments.
“The Missouri Valley Football Presidents Council has determined patience is warranted regarding any decision to modify the 2020 fall season, seeing merit in delaying as long as there remains a possibility to provide a safe competitive opportunity for MVFC student-athletes," the league said in a statement.
The commissioner of the MVFC, Patty Viverito, is also the commissioner of the Pioneer Football League. In its statement on Monday, the PFL said the "Pioneer Football League’s Presidents Council has determined PFL fall schedules will not include any non-conference competition and, if conducted, a conference-only schedule will not begin before September 26. The Council will vigilantly monitor national developments, ensuring the league’s plans continue to be supported by current medical evidence and guidance. It is the Council’s intent to ensure the health and welfare of student-athletes and the communities in which they live."
The news didn't catch Larsen by surprise, he said, citing conversations with Drake athletic director Brian Hardin. Larsen said he figured the Pioneer would reduce its schedule given the fact the league teams are spread throughout the country from San Diego to Marist College (N.Y.).
It’s been a rough couple of weeks elsewhere in the FCS, with five leagues shutting down football operations this fall including the powerful Colonial Athletic Association. Also not playing besides the MEAC are the Patriot League, Ivy League and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Two schools from the Big South Conference, Monmouth University (N.J.) and Hampton (Va.), are also not playing as mandated from their respective universities.
The Big Sky and Southland conferences held their virtual media days last week, a major sign of their intent to play this fall.
There was also some promising news in a day of negativity: Bison head football coach Matt Entz said his program has had no positive tests that he knows of since the reveal of 13 student-athletes comprising all sports testing positive last week.
"We're efforting," he said.