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OU football: Sooners' game at Army officially canceled for 2020 season

NORMAN — This was supposed to be a grand season for OU’s non-conference schedule.

The Sooners were scheduled to make their first visit to West Point, New York, since 1946, giving OU — and its fans — a memorable trip to historic Michie Stadium and Army a rare chance to host a big-name opponent.

OU was also supposed to host Tennessee, an SEC opponent that figured to give the Sooners a game. The Volunteers might not have beaten OU this season but they’d at least give a strong warmup before Big 12 play started and they had the capability of pulling the upset.

But that is no more.

Tennessee was erased last week, when the SEC went to a conference-only model for 2020, canceling the game scheduled for Sept. 12.

Then Tuesday, a day after the Big 12 moved to a nine-plus-one schedule for this season, the Army game on Sept. 26 went along with it.

If the Sooners were hosting Army this season, it might’ve been different, but traveling across the country for a non-conference game wasn’t going to happen.

“We are disappointed to lose Oklahoma from our schedule this season, however we respect the Big 12’s difficult decision,” Army athletic director Mike Buddie said in a statement. 

“I am saddened for our players, coaches, alumni and fans to miss out on what has been such a highly anticipated contest since it was first announced. Given the rapidly changing environment in college athletics, we’ve been working on numerous contingency plans in the event of decisions like this, and have already begun the process of finding a future date to host the Sooners.”

That leaves Missouri State as the last (non-conference) opponent standing. 

The Sooners are scheduled to host the Bears on Aug. 29, though the date of that game is likely to change. The opponent, though, is unlikely to.

OU has worked with Missouri State to help bring their COVID-19 testing protocol in line with Big 12 standards, even offering use of their lab to ensure quick delivery of results the week of the game.

Missouri State needs the game due to the payout. While plenty of Football Championship Subdivision teams have lost their money games against Power Five opponents, the Bears have the ability to keep theirs.

The game was originally set for Sept. 5, but moved up a week to allow a buffer between the season opener and the scheduled game against Tennessee, easing the chances of a spate of positive tests wrecking the future schedule.

But with the Tennessee and Army games off the table, that date could change once more.

The Big 12 hasn’t announced its schedule, which figures to change at least slightly with Monday’s decision. But the conference schedule isn’t likely to start before late September, giving some flexibility.

The easiest solution would be to move the game back to its original date. That would allow more time before the start of the season to monitor the situation and make adjustments, while still giving adequate time before the start of conference play.

Another solution, should OU’s Big 12 schedule remain the same, would be to play Sept. 26. 

That seems unlikely, though, because Missouri State plays the previous two weekends and and because it could be more difficult to manage testing procedures vs. playing the game as both teams’ season openers.

"We appreciate the donors, ticket holders, partners and fans who have been so patient and supportive through these unprecedented times," Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a statement. "Our staff has prepared for a number of different scenarios and we will be ready when the season begins. Our new schedule is being finalized along with all the details that will be associated with stadium access and operation.

"We expect to have that information completed soon and will communicate it as quickly as possible."

While there is a desire on both sides to reschedule the Army game for the near future, it won't be easy.

OU has a non-conference opening in 2022 and 2025, though in each of those seasons the Sooners already have a road non-conference game planned. The Sooners travel to Nebraska in 2022 and Temple in 2025. Army’s non-conference schedule is full in 2022.

The Sooners haven't played two road non-conference games in the same season since 1999 when they traveled to Louisville and Notre Dame. In 2009, the Sooners played a neutral site game against BYU in Dallas and played at Miami.

"That's going to be difficult," Castiglione said recently, acknowledging that the sides had been talking about contingency plans should the game be canceled this season.

Related Photos
Fans watch Army play Bucknell during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Michie Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in West Point, N.Y. Army won the game 21-14. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Fans watch Army play Bucknell during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Michie Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in West Point, N.Y. Army won the game 21-14. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-353d4ace880270874cc3f55e3e720702.jpg" alt="Photo - Fans watch Army play Bucknell during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Michie Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in West Point, N.Y. Army won the game 21-14. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)" title="Fans watch Army play Bucknell during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Michie Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in West Point, N.Y. Army won the game 21-14. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)"><figcaption>Fans watch Army play Bucknell during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Michie Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in West Point, N.Y. Army won the game 21-14. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)</figcaption></figure>
Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

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