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OU football seeks to move Missouri State opener to Aug. 29

OU has petitioned the NCAA for a waiver that would allow the Sooners to move their 2020 football opener against Missouri State from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29, The Oklahoman has learned. Missouri State apparently is agreeable to the move.

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione’s rationale in this pandemic-stricken year is that moving the opener would give OU an off week after each of its first two games, which could be valuable with the testing of players for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

With constant testing and the subsequent contact tracing for those exposed, teams face a season with frequent quarantines and isolation of players who either have the virus or have been exposed to it.

OU is scheduled to host Tennessee on Sept. 12, then play at Army on Sept. 26.

Thursday, the Big Ten announced it would play only conference games this season, and reports say the Pac-12 will follow suit. But Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Thursday the Big 12 still plans to play non-conference games.

The college football season is scheduled to start on Aug. 29, Zero Week, which was instituted to allow teams that play at Hawaii to offset those costs with an extra regular-season home game. The NCAA last year granted a waiver that moved the Florida-Miami to Zero Week, ostensibly to celebrate college football’s 150th anniversary.

There is no guarantee that the NCAA will grant OU’s request, which has no apparent financial ramification.

“We don’t know for sure if we’ll have fans at the game,” Castiglione said. “We don’t even for sure if we’ll have the game itself. There’s no guarantee on anything.”

But any open date this season could help a team avoid roster depletion in the case of a coronavirus outbreak. The Big Ten’s decision to play only conference games was made in part so the league would have 14 weeks to get in the planned 10-game season.

Players who test positive for the virus are expected to be quarantined for 14 days, which potentially could mean sitting out two games, unless there’s an open date. Players who are exposed to the virus will be isolated until a negative test result. Sources from both OU and OSU reported that test results are coming back within 24 hours, but the process is not so quick at every Big 12 school.

“What we don’t know is the number of players we’d have to hold out through contact tracing alone,” Castiglione said. For example, if an offensive lineman tests positive, the entire offensive line could be isolated until test results come back negative. That could leave a team so short-handed a game might not be possible.

Lincoln Riley was asked last week if Power 5 Conference schools could afford to play lower-division opponents like Missouri State, with such diversity in budgets and protocols.

“Right now, I do believe you can,” Riley said. “Those are ongoing conversations that we have had. I give Joe and our administration credit. They’ve been having ongoing conversations with Missouri State for a long time now. We certainly won’t if we don’t feel comfortable about it. But I think the plan that we have set forth right now – again we have to be ready to adjust. These things can change in a moment’s notice. But I feel confident in the plan that we have going forward right now to be ready to kick it off against Missouri State.”

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Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›