For now, it appears there will be a fall college football season, thanks in large part to the Big 12.
On Wednesday, just one day after the Big Ten and Pac-12 both postponed all fall sports, the Big 12 announced its plans for a fall football season, including a comprehensive plan for coronavirus testing.
“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,” said Board of Directors Chairman Victor Boschini. “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.”
Big 12 schools, which include the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, have committed to enhanced COVID-19 testing that includes three tests per week in high-contact sports like football. Additionally, return to play protocols after positive occurrences will include an EKG, troponin blood test, echocardiogram, and a cardiac MRI. Non-conference football opponents must also adhere to 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,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “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.”
As far as the schedule goes, the Big 12 says the 9+1 scheduling model remains, which features nine conference games and one non-conference games. It includes a Sept. 26th start date for conference play. All non-conference games must be completed before September 26, and the matchups will be announced by each individual conference member (Texas just announced it will host UTEP on Sept. 12th).
The Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship Game is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 12.