FARGO — College football fans across the country with eyes on an NCAA Board of Governors meeting Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 4, were still on pins and needles as dinner time hit the Midwest and East Coast. After the meeting wrapped up, there was no official word from the NCAA on the future of fall football.
"The Board of Governors and I (Tuesday) continued our discussion about the NCAA's ability to proceed with our 22 fall championships in light of the COVID-19 trend lines," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. "In order to ensure the health and well-being of college athletes, we have to consider all the implications when determining our next steps, and we plan to provide an update to our membership and public (Wednesday)."
There are seven conferences that are still apparently on board with fall football, but the NCAA runs the 24-team FCS playoffs including the championship game in Frisco, Texas. North Dakota State begins fall practice on Friday.
The Board, the highest governing body in the NCAA, last met July 24 with no resolution other than put out a statement saying it was going to continue to monitor the health conditions around the country. It did put out the foreshadowing caveat in its statement saying 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.”
Since that meeting, the trend in NCAA football has not been positive. On Tuesday, several players for the University of Idaho of the Big Sky Conference reportedly were going to opt out this season rather than play. One report said up to 75% of the team was on board with that path.
The Southeastern Conference last week approved a 10-game schedule, essentially meeting mandates by the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences of not playing nonconference games. This week, the Big 12 Conference approved a scheduling model of league games plus one nonconference matchup.
But there were positive signs amid the haggling over whether to play. In the Missouri Valley Football Conference, Missouri State and Southern Illinois started practice last weekend. MSU plays at Oklahoma and SIU is at Kansas on Aug. 29.
SIU got through the first four days with no apparent issues. The coaches wear face shields or masks with separate outdoor tents for the offense and defense. The first day in full pads will be Wednesday.
“SIU has done its best to limit players’ interactions and even set up outdoor tents as makeshift locker rooms,” said Todd Hefferman, who covers the Salukis for the Southern Illinoisan newspaper. “They’ve got about as good a plan as you can have, without any kind of playbook to help them.”
Missouri State head coach Bobby Petrino conducted his first post-practice press conference via a Zoom call. The Bears test weekly and the Springfield News-Leader newspaper reported on Monday 31 student-athletes had tested positive so far this summer.
NDSU’s opening of fall camp on Friday comes despite any announcement of replacement games for the three nonconference games the Bison lost in September. Last week, NDSU revealed its players will be wearing cloth masks that attach to the facemask in hopes of preventing spread of the virus.