A day after two of college football's "Power 5" conferences announced the postponement of fall sports, the Big 12 Conference on Wednesday released an amended schedule for its 2020 football season.
The conference football schedule will begin Sept. 26, with no fall sports scheduled to begin until after Sept. 1. Big 12 football teams must play their nonconference game before the beginning of conference play.
“The Board continues to believe that the health and well-being of our student-athletes must guide all decisions” Board of Directors Chairman and TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini commented in a press release. “To that end the Board has consistently relied on the advice and counsel of top medical experts to determine the viability of available options. Our student-athletes want to compete, and it is the Board’s collective opinion that sports can be conducted safely and in concert with the best interests of their well-being. We remain vigilant in monitoring the trends and effects of COVID 19 as we learn more about the virus. If at any point our scientists and doctors conclude that our institutions cannot provide a safe and appropriate environment for our participants, we will change course.”
In the press release, the conference said all 10 of its schools have committed to testing athletes three times per week in "high contact sports" like football, volleyball and soccer.
"Additionally, return to play protocols after positive occurrences will include an EKG, troponin blood test, echocardiogram, and cardiac MRI. Non-conference football opponents must also adhere to COVID-19 testing protocols that conform to Big 12 standards during the week leading up to competition. “The virus continues to evolve and medical professionals are learning more with each passing week,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said
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Stadium capacity will be determined by local and state health authorities, according to conference officials.
As part of the announcement Wednesday, the conference also released its revised football schedule. Teams will still play their "9-plus-1" schedules, with nine conference games and one non-conference game. The league's signature rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma remains scheduled for Oct. 10 at the Cotton Bowl.
Incoming TCU junior Colby Mortell tells NBC 5, he was pleasantly surprised at the announcement.
"When the Big 10 and Pac 12 cancelled, I kind of thought it was going to cause a domino effect like it with March Madness and all that," Mortell said. "I’m so excited, like I don’t think we’re going to have fans. I’m excited I get to watch it and just have a good time. Every Saturday, that’s going to my life, every weekend now that we have it."
Justin Walter, general manager of Toppers Pizza's near the TCU campus, said he welcomed the news as well. Like other businesses, they took a financial hit at the beginning of the pandemic.
Walter said they've recently started to get back on track.
"Students are slowly filtering in back here. I think a lot of them are starting to move back throughout the summer. We’ve just been doing a lot more marketing on social media and things like that," he said. "We always have some of our biggest days, especially when TCU is playing at home. Those are some of our biggest Saturdays, so it should definitely help our sales during these times."
Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby released the following statement Wednesday.
"The virus continues to evolve and medical professionals are learning more with each passing week. Opinions vary regarding the best path forward, as we've seen throughout higher education and our society overall, but 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 during this time of COVID-19. Ultimately, our student-athletes have indicated their desire to compete in the sports they love this season and it is up to all of us to deliver a safe, medically sound, and structured academic and athletic environment for accomplishing that outcome."