FCS conferences await NCAA insight
By CRAIG HALEY
(Stats Perform) - The ball - literally - is going back in the hands of FCS conferences.
The seven that have remained hopeful with having a fall season must determine their direction following Tuesday's NCAA Board of Governors meeting, where discussion centered around potential competition during the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting ended without any immediate announcement, although NCAA president Mark Emmert later said one will be made on Wednesday.
The Big Sky, Big South, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Pioneer, Southern and Southland conferences and a handful of independent programs - about 75 of the 127 FCS programs - awaited insight from the meeting. Whether the NCAA will sponsor its 22 championship events, including the FCS playoffs, was a key topic. A lack of championship events, which the NCAA canceled during the winter and spring seasons due to the pandemic, could be received as the governing body suggesting there should not be fall competition, although it doesn't control the regular season.
Wrote Brett McMurphy of Stadium network on Twitter: "NCAA Board of Governors, which consists of reps from Divisions I-III, did not vote on fall sports championships, sources told Stadium. Instead each Division will decide if & how to proceed with fall sports, sources told Stadium, because of drastic differences between Divisions."
Conference decisions will be made after school presidents and decision makers reconvene, mostly in the next two days. They include meetings in the MVFC, home to FCS national champion North Dakota State, and the Big Sky, which boasted four of the eight schools that were seeded in last year's playoffs.
During his conference's recent virtual media day, Southland commissioner Tom Burnett, whose conference hosts national championship week, echoed the national sentiment when he said the pathway to fall competition "is done with the health and safety of our student-athletes and our game participants at the forefront - in every conversation, every discussion, every plan."
The FCS conferences that previously ruled against having a fall season were the CAA, Ivy, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot and SWAC. All six have left open the possibility of playing football and other fall sports in the spring semester if health conditions are deemed safe.
In contrast, all 10 FBS conferences are planning to have a fall season.
The NCAA's board of governors, whose 25 members include three representatives from FCS conferences, pushed back the decision about the postseason during a July 24 meeting at the request of many Division I conferences and the Division I football oversight committee, which both preferred the extra time to continue assessing health conditions.
But 10 days later, the clock ticked louder. Programs with an early season opener on Aug. 29, including a handful in the FCS, were allowed to begin practicing this past weekend. The rest can start on Friday.
Any season would be much different, including regular COVID-19 testing and possible disruptions due to positive results. Crowd sizes would be kept lower to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Updated August 4, 2020