NCAA Football

In overtime, the FCS may not have winners

By CRAIG HALEY

Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - The decision to have FCS college football this fall was expected to be made by the end of July, but the schools and conferences that remain in play are primed to head into overtime.

There continues to be defectors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the Northeast Conference announcing Wednesday night it won't have fall sports competition, while others are pushing the 11th hour of decision making closer to the start of preseason camps next Friday.

The "others" list isn't so big anymore because only seven of the 13 FCS conferences are still trying to have a fall season. They are doing what the Missouri Valley Football Conference described earlier this week as exhibiting "patience" with the decision.

Anxious feelings, though, overwhelm optimistic vibes. The pandemic has led to more than 1,800 games being canceled or postponed across all three NCAA divisions. Junior colleges won't play until the spring semester, provided conditions are safe.

School presidents, chancellors and those who make the final decisions about playing or not seem to finally resolve there are no good options - that they would put student-athletes in harm's way by moving forward with a season. That may mean in the next week more FCS conferences will join the six that announced they are out until at least the spring: the NEC, CAA Football, the Ivy and Patriot leagues and the Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences.

To move forward with a fall season has come to be a ship sailing into a dangerous storm. Some FCS conferences have schools in states that are hot spots or are growing into one, such as the Southland Conference with members in Louisiana and Texas and the Ohio Valley Conference with members in Tennessee and Kentucky. Other conferences are spread out geographically, such as the Big Sky Conference and Pioneer Football League, and too many games would likely involve flights, which schools and conferences prefer to avoid during the pandemic.

The MVFC, home to FCS champion North Dakota State, and the Big South and Southern conferences also are hopeful, but have their share of concerns as well. Just the ability to afford coronavirus testing is daunting.

There are 127 FCS programs, and about 75 are still in the mix for having a fall season. If there is one, regional games and conference-only schedules will be the norm, and there may not be FCS playoffs.

Ultimately, overtime may not bring winners. As July advances into August, the unpopular decision to shut down the FCS season feels inevitable.

Updated July 30, 2020