The Big 12 will continue to assess COVID-19 developments before making a call on the fall sports season, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
“I believe it’s too early to be making those decisions,” Bowlsby said following a Tuesday meeting of conference athletic directors. “Frankly, we haven’t been advised to do that by our scientists and medical advisors. We’ve been advised to move forward slowly and constantly re-evaluate and that’s what we’ll keep doing until we’ve (been) told it’s inadvisable.”
Bowlsby’s comments put the Big 12 on the same page with public comments by the SEC and ACC.
The Big Ten followed by the Pac-12 announced last week that they would be playing a conference-only football schedule. Although COVID-19 testing numbers have spiked recently and pessimism has grown about a fall football season, Bowlsby said any decision is likely too “circumstantial and situational.” The ADs were briefed on COVID-19 testing and monitoring protocol Tuesday by Dr. Kyle Goerl, the Kansas State team physician.
Said Bowlsby: “We’re going to have to be patient and continue to read the tea leaves and see what the next two or three or four weeks bring us. If things get worse, that will inform one set of decisions. If things get better, that will inform another set of decisions.”
The Associated Press reported Tuesday afternoon that the first COVID-19 vaccine to undergo testing in the United States performed as expected and is headed to final stage testing. “Certainly we watch very closely those developments and any good news is more than welcome,” Bowlsby said. “On the other hand, we’re advised that it takes a while to work the bugs out of vaccine development. I don’t want to get the cart before the horse.”
The Big 12 board of directors will consider a variety of COVID-19 related recommendations from the athletic directors next Monday in a regularly-scheduled meeting. Among them: no travel by Big 12 spirit squads and pep bands for football. “Everything we’re doing right now is geared towards getting as far down the path as we can to playing football,” Bowlsby said.
Bowlsby said the Big 12 hasn’t formally had any discussions with the SEC or ACC about filing the holes left on the scheduled by the Big Ten/Pac-12 conference-only move.
“I think our schools individually will be out talking to people about filling out their schedule for 12 games,” Bowlsby said. “If they lost a game, they’ll look around and try to pick one up. If it’s a road game, they may not.”
There is a huge financial component to the decisions facing conferences with football the prime economic driver for FBS athletic departments.
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard underscored what’s at stake for the college football season financially in an open letter to fans Monday.
With a fall sports season, Iowa State would be looking at a $40 million loss in athletic revenue for a department with an $86 million budget. “I feel it is imperative and timely to clarify the reasons why we are doing everything in our power to try and safely play college sports this fall,” Pollard said. “Some people have incorrectly framed the issue as safety versus revenue generation. The simple fact is that reality lies somewhere in the middle.”
Still, Bowlsby said medical guidance and health concerns will take priority.
“If they came back to us tomorrow and said this isn’t working, we don’t have any chance to make it work, we’re going to listen to them and there won’t be any argument,” Bowlsby said.
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