Mountain West football teams could take the field as soon as Oct. 24 and play an eight-game, conference-only schedule, if a proposal by conference athletic directors is approved by the MW Board of Directors.
Several scenarios have been under consideration in recent weeks, but pulses quickened last week with movement at the state and local levels across the conference that would allow for fall football.
According to sources familiar with the situation who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly, Mountain West ADs met Monday to consider what plan to present to the Board, which is expected to meet sometime this week.
All 12 of the conference’s teams will reportedly participate. Just a week ago, there were questions among more than half the schools about taking the field amid coronavirus concerns.
Returning on Oct. 24 — which would coincide with the Big Ten’s return — could be ambitious given it is just more than five weeks away and an official decision still has not been made.
Hawaii is the only state among MWC members with a quarantine currently in place. Beginning Oct. 15, trans-Pacific travelers who pass pretesting requirements may skip quarantine. Ahead of Monday’s meeting, athletic director David Matlin told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that any return-to-play plan “has to be done in totality, looking at the testing plan, the protocols, which we’re hopefully finalizing soon, as well as the fiscal element to it. But, I’m hopeful that we can get the plan together and make it happen.”
NCAA membership had agreed that a six-week window was necessary to prepare for playing. Fresno State will be challenged, given the Bulldogs are just now trying to bring athletes back to campus.
The start to the season could be delayed beyond Oct. 24, but it would result in playing fewer games if the conference is to contest a championship game on Dec. 19. In a conversation last week, San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke was hopeful for an eight-game season, but said he still would be comfortable playing six games.
“There is some sensitivity timewise if we want to get going,” Hoke said. “I think we all could live with six and feel OK about it. I think anything less than that would not be where we want to be.”
Sab Diego State had a two-week pause in athletic activities brought about by a coronavirus outbreak on campus. The Aztecs returned to workouts Thursday. Approval to play this week would dovetail nicely with practicing, although SDSU still is working out details with county health officials on a normal practice plan that would include blocking and tackling.
Air Force is best positioned for playing among the Mountain West’s teams. The Falcons, who were the only team in the conference to get in all 15 spring practices, have been allowed to conduct fall practices because they have two games on the schedule — against Navy (Oct. 3) and Army (Nov. 7). If the Mountain West plays, it raises the question of what Air Force does with the Army game.
Kenney writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune