Uncertainty looms ahead of the 2020 fall athletic season as conferences across college sports are making changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two Division I conferences — the Ivy League and the Patriot League — have outright canceled their fall athletic seasons. The Ivy League was the first to make the decision, stating that all competition would be shut down through the end of the calendar year. The Patriot League didn’t go quite as far, leaving the door open for possible winter and spring seasons, with a decision on those coming at a later date.
Those two conferences, however, are the only two in Division I athletics to make such a decision so far — but significant changes have already come to the fall schedule.
This is where each Power Five conference stands ahead of the fall sports season:
Original, 7/13/20: The Big 12 has not yet made an announcement on its upcoming fall season.
The conference is expected to make an official announcement later this month, along with the ACC, according to ESPN.
Update, 7/15/20: Conference athletic directors met on Tuesday to discuss the fate of the fall sports season, and according to the Dallas Morning News, commissioner Bob Bowlsby said it is still “too early” to make a decision yet.
“We’re going to have to be patient and continue to read the tea leaves and see what the next two or three or four weeks bring us,” Bowlsby reportedly said. “If things get worse, that will inform one set of decisions. If things get better, that will inform another set of decisions.”
As far as football scheduling goes, Bowlsby did indicate that football teams are still slated to play all 12 games, and it is on the schools to make up for any lost games due to decisions made by other conferences. That means West Virginia will be looking for a replacement opponent after losing their week three matchup with Maryland.
Update, 7/27/20: Two Big 12 schools are hoping to start their 2020 season a week earlier than previously scheduled.
Oklahoma was the first team to make a change on Saturday when the Sooners announced that they were moving up their season opener with Missouri State to Aug. 29. The move, according to athletic director Joe Castiglione, gives Oklahoma more time to “manage any variety of possible circumstances that may occur.”
Kansas also made a change to its schedule on Saturday, announcing a new season opener against Southern Illinois also slated for Aug. 29. The Jayhawks were originally scheduled to face New Hampshire, however that game was canceled after COVID-19 concerns caused the Colonial Athletic Conference to suspend fall sports.
Update, 8/3/20: The Big 12 officially announced that it would be going to a “nine-plus-one” scheduling model for the 2020 season consisting of nine conference games plus one non-conference game. The non-conference game must be played at the Big 12 team’s home stadium.
West Virginia’s non-conference game against Eastern Kentucky is still on the table, as it is scheduled to be played at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The Big Ten was the first Power Five conference to make a major decision for the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic when it announced its move to conference-only schedules in the upcoming season on Friday. This effectively canceled West Virginia’s week three matchup with Maryland.
With the decision, any Big Ten student-athletes who wish to sit out summer athletic activities — or the season as a whole — due to safety concerns can do so while keeping their scholarships.
The conference also maintained the possibility of a full cancellation of the fall season.
“As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way, based on the best advice of medical experts, we are also prepared not to play in order to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate,” the conference said in a statement.
The Pac-12 followed the Big Ten’s suit a day later by opting for conference-only schedules this fall.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority,” said commissioner Larry Scott. “Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”
Like the Big Ten, the conference will honor scholarships of any student-athletes who choose not to participate due to COVID-19 concerns.
According to the Pac-12’s press release, the conference has developed “a series” of possible scheduling models for the fall and will announce its final decision by the end of July.
The ACC announced on Monday that the league’s virtual media kickoff event originally slated for July 21-23 will be postponed. This is the first major decision officially announced by the conference ahead of the 2020 season.
It is unclear when — or if — the event will ultimately be held.
After the Big Ten’s Friday announcement to move to conference-only scheduling, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported that the ACC would do the same. That report was later disputed by The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, who called any news regarding the conference was “premature.”
The ACC is, however, expected to make an announcement regarding football season “in late July,” according to a release from commissioner John Swofford. The conference has already delayed the start of competition in its Olympic fall sports until at least Sept. 1.
Conference leaders met in Birmingham, Alabama Monday to discuss their options.
However, just days before the meeting, commissioner Greg Sankey didn’t have an optimistic outlook regarding the fall.
“We put a medical advisory group together in early April with the question, ‘What do we have to do to get back to activity?’ and they’ve been a big part of the conversation,” Sankey told ESPN. “But the direct reality is not good and the notion that we’ve politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings. There’s some very clear advice about — you can’t mitigate and eliminate every risk, but how do you minimize the risk? … We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.”
Update, 7/14/20: The SEC has announced that volleyball, soccer and cross-country competition will be postponed through August 31.
Update, 7/31/20: The SEC has announced that this year’s football schedule will consist only of conference games and the season’s start will be pushed back to Sept. 26.
Update, 8/4/20: With the delayed start to their season, SEC teams will begin fall camp on Monday, Aug. 17.