Big 12 moves forward with fall football: 'Making adjustments on the fly are going to be part of this'
The Big 12 Conference's presidents and chancellors gathered virtually Tuesday to make a decision that could make or break not only the conference’s season but also college football as a whole in the fall.
Ultimately, the group decided to move forward with their plan to play in the fall — nine conference games plus one nonconference game each.
OU is now scheduled to kick off its season Sept. 12 versus Missouri State in Norman before opening conference play Sept. 26 versus Kansas State.
OSU will host Tulsa on Sept. 12 to start its season before hosting West Virginia on Sept. 26.
“Nobody has told us that it’s poorly advised to go forward and do what we are doing,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said on a teleconference Wednesday. “If we get to the place where our doctors and scientists say, ‘You know what, you guys got two wheels off the tracks and you’re headed for a train wreck,’ we will pivot that day.
“Making adjustments on the fly are going to be part of this.”
The Big 12 decision came just a few hours after two other major conferences announced Tuesday they were postponing football. The Big Ten and Pac 12 had already announced their decision to postpone football until at least the spring. The ACC and SEC have reaffirmed their intention to stick with a fall schedule.
The league’s board of directors listened as several experts laid out their opinions on whether or not the sport could be played in the fall and ways to minimize the risks. Those experts included Duke epidemiologist and assistant professor of medicine Chris Hostler, a representative from the Mayo Clinic who works in genetic cardiology and athletes who would be affected by the decisions reached.
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OU President Joe Harroz said in a statement that the input of the athletes was important in the decision — though changes could be made if medical experts recommended otherwise.
“We have listened to our student-athletes that have made it clear that they want to play,” Harroz said. “As in everything we do in response to COVID-19, we will proceed cautiously, constantly assessing the state of the virus and its impact on our community members.”
OU and OSU are both scheduled to open their seasons at home Sept. 12, the Sooners against Missouri State and the Cowboys against Tulsa. Two weeks later, the Big 12 slate begins.
In addition to the decision on whether or not to play, the Big 12 implemented protocols for testing and return to play for athletes who test positive.
Players will be tested three times each week — likely Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Players who test positive must go through a series of tests before they return, including several tests meant to monitor heart function.
One of the major concerns about playing this season is the possibility that myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, could be associated with COVID-19. Early studies have shown a greater risk for the condition than other viruses though a definitive correlation has not been established.
Bowlsby said there would “probably be some” athletes who would not get cleared for return to competition after testing positive.
“There are risks in playing, in not playing, and in returning everyone to their homes,” OU team physician Brock Schnebel said in a statement. “We feel that for the student-athletes’ mental and overall well-being, it is best to let them continue in this setting and with the additional modifications that will be enacted as we expand to game settings.”