Big 12 moves ahead with fall sports beginning in September

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 12:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2020 at 8:30 PM EDT
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(AP) - The Big 12 Conference reaffirmed its decision to press on with college football and other fall sports Wednesday, joining the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences in taking the field amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came one day after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they would not be participating this fall. There is a chance the other two Power Five leagues will push their seasons to the spring, but that remains to be determined.

In the meantime, the Big 12 board of directors approved a plan to begin fall sports after Sept. 1 with football playing a schedule in which each team can play one non-conference game before league play begins Sept. 26. The schools will all play each other to give them 10 total games with the Big 12 title game scheduled for Dec. 12.

The league’s schools have agreed to enhanced COVID-19 testing that includes three tests per week in “high contact” sports such as football, volleyball and soccer. Rigorous testing that includes echocardiograms, a cardiac MRI and blood tests will be required before athletes can return to play. All non-conference opponents also must adhere to Big 12 standards.

“The virus continues to evolve and medical professionals are learning more with each passing week,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “We are comfortable in our institutions’ ability to provide a structured training environment, rigorous testing and surveillance, hospital quality sanitation and mitigation practices that optimize the health and safety of our student-athletes. We believe all of this combines to create an ideal learning and training situation.”

Bowlsby said he’s not sure what the protocol will be if a number of players on any Big 12 team test positive for COVID-19.

“Institutionally, it may be decided by a number, bu tit also my be decided by other factors,” he said. “If all your quarterbacks live together and they’re in the same conference room and they are all of a sudden infected, it’s hard to go forward.”

The number of fans, if any, allowed to attend games will be up to each college and local health officials.

“We do not have a policy at the conference level. There are states that have 50 percent, there are states that have 25 percent, there are states that have said they don’t think it’s a good idea to have any fans in the stands,” Bowlsby said.

University of Kansas Head Football Coach Les Miles said he’s excited to start playing again, but his team is going to move forward cautiously, relying on medical professionals to provide players with a game plan that promotes health and safety

Kansas State University Athletic Director Gene Taylor held a press conference Wednesday and said the K-State football team will continue to take precautions to keep everyone safe.

“Certainly we need to do our best to keep these kids safe, whether it’s making sure we’re testing and keeping them safe and the mask wearing and social distancing and all those things,” Taylor said.

Currently, the schedule for K-State shows the Wildcats opening the 2020 season at home Sept. 12 against Arkansas State. K-State’s first road game is scheduled for Sept. 26 at Oklahoma. The Sunflower Showdown between K-State and KU is set for Oct. 24 in Manhattan.

KU’s schedule shows an open slot for a yet-to-be-determined non-conference opponent to open the 2020 season. The Jayhawks’ first Big 12 opponent is at Baylor on Sept. 26. The Jayhawks’ first home game on the schedule is Oct. 3 against Oklahoma State.

The Big 12 championship game is set for Dec. 12 at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. That date is one week later than originally scheduled. The start of the season can be delayed up to two weeks with the conference title game able to be pushed back as far as Dec. 19.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.