A traditional college football calendar would have celebrated a “Meet the Sooners” day for fans over the past weekend.
Monday was to be centered on the Big 12 Conference’s 10 schools and their preparedness for the 2020 football season.
Instead, a virtual conference media day was abruptly called off last week and the annual fan day was never planned during the summer. Now all attention is placed on a Monday closed meeting between league presidents and chancellors about the next step to the football season’s scheduling.
The Big 12’s athletic directors reportedly have options for the upcoming season — according to sources of Dennis Dodd from CBS Sports — which include journeying forward with a 12-game schedule or joining other Power 5 Conferences with a 10- or 11-game schedule.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione has had a summer of answering “I don’t know” to popular questions about an upcoming season. For a department that’s transparent (which has included releasing testing results to the COVID-19 problem), it’s been hard for him.
Oklahoma opened fall camp on Friday with a focus toward a scheduled Aug. 29 season opener against visiting Missouri State. The Sooners’ home game against Tennessee on Sept. 12 has been canceled while a Sept. 26 game at Army remains on the slate, but any Monday decision by the Big 12 can put that in flux.
Castiglone said there have been plenty of conversations between administrators because there are so many variables.
“That’s what makes it hard. Sometimes things seem to be just, choose one or the other, but it’s not that easy,” he said following an OU Board of Regents meeting last week.
“There hasn’t been a hard and fast decision made yet because there’s still a great deal we’re learning. But we’re trying to, without the benefit of the playbook or a blueprint for any of this, most of this is literally trying to listen clearly, understand what the medical experts and science is telling us and try to adapt the most sensible approach with safety, health and welfare as a non-negotiable.”
So what’s going to happen? And why would Sept. 26 be a date to watch on OU’s potential schedule?
If the Missouri State game remains scheduled for late August, it would be one of the few college football games played nationally not just on that weekend, but over the next few weeks. It would also present a 10th data point for OU.
The FCS game might be the easier football game to play if the Big 12 adopts a “nine-plus-one” style, which includes the usual round robin of conference games with allowance of one nonconference contest. It’s a geographical game, which would help both schools monitor the health of players. Missouri State is also utilizing Oklahoma’s testing kits and labs, an agreement that benefits both schools.
If the game is moved back to late September — which would allow time for more determination of the virus — the Bears do have an open date on Sept. 26, which is the date of the Sooners’ game at Army.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already announced that fans won’t be allowed to attend football games in his state, which impacts the West Point game. The game has been a marquee event for OU fans that were looking forward to a rare trip to the stadium.
Castiglione was recently asked if the game could be moved to a new destination and if it could be played at a different date.
“(Moving it) hasn’t been discussed at all simply because the states around them are all invoking similar restrictions. To move it out of New York to New Jersey or Connecticut or Pennsylvania, you aren’t really changing much,” Castiglione said. “You have to really think about (an) entirely different place and that’s not really workable at this stage. We’re not talking about alternative sites.
“We’re watching carefully about what might happen, what can happen and whether or not we can have the game. The only thing that we’ve talked about briefly is, if the game can’t occur, how we can find a place in our schedules to reschedule it. That’s going to be difficult. We both have schedules that are set for several years.”
Conference games will be closely watched. The ACC is allowing 10 league games and one non-league contest. The SEC is going to 10 conference games. The Pac-12 will exclusively stay within conference with 10 games. The Big Ten hasn’t released its plan.
Oklahoma has nine games built into its schedule. The 10th will have to be valuable, especially when comparing final schedules with other Power 5 schools if it comes down to the College Football Playoff committee.
Will it be Army? Will it be Missouri State? Will it be a yet-to-be determined opponent?
In keeping with a motto of this football season: Only time will tell.
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Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
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