While some smaller athletic conferences around the nation have canceled fall sports, the Power Five are plowing forward with various fall scheduling formats.
All but the Big 12 and the ACC have announced conference-only looks and have offered their athletes the ability to opt out of the 2020 season while retaining their scholarships. All plan to get back on the field in September.
Here’s what the Power Five landscape looks like right now:
UPDATE: On Aug. 5, the NCAA Board of Governors issued association-wide guidelines that divisions must follow in order for the NCAA to sponsor postseason championships.
Measures include scholarship protection — with "eligibility accommodations" decided by Aug. 14 — for all student-athletes who decide to opt out, the elimination of COVID-19 waivers signed by athletes, institutional coverage of out-of-pocket COVID-19-related expenses and a method for athletes and personnel to report to the NCAA when schools fail to follow safety protocols.
Further, the statement said NCAA divisions must decide on the fate of all fall sports by Aug. 21.
“Student-athletes should never feel pressured into playing their sport if they do not believe it is safe to do so," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in the Wednesday statement. "These policies ensure they can make thoughtful, informed decisions about playing this fall.”
The SEC announced a 10-game conference-only schedule on July 30. New schedules have not yet been finalized, although the conference said seasons will begin on Sept. 26 and end with the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19. Players will have the option to sit out this season and retain their scholarships.
Yesterday, the conference released an updated preseason practice schedule. The NCAA Division I Council’s preseason guidelines issued on June 11 allowed the practice period to begin on Aug. 7 for seasons beginning Sept. 5. Because the SEC pushed its season start back 19 days, its member schools can begin full-team practices on Aug. 17, according to the statement.
From Aug. 7-16, SEC teams can mandate 14 hours per week of training, individual and team meetings and walkthroughs with a football. On Aug. 17, teams can begin to practice. The conference will require teams to practice for two days wearing only helmets followed by two days of helmets and shoulder pads before players can wear their full gear. Teams may hold 25 total practices before their first game with a maximum of 20 hours of practice time per week.
Identical to the SEC, the Pac-12 CEO group also announced on July 31 a 10-game conference-only schedule beginning on Sept. 26. The conference championship will occur on either Dec. 18 or 19. Players will have the ability to opt out of the season.
On Aug. 2, a union of Pac-12 athletes introduced the #WeAreUnited petition, which demands, among other things, the elimination of performance and academic bonuses for coaches, the even distribution of half of each sport’s revenue to players and the creation of an annual “Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit” with three athlete-selected representatives from each member school.
“Because we are being asked to play college sports in a pandemic in a system without enforced health and safety standards, and without transparency about COVID cases on our teams, the risks to ourselves, our families, and our communities, #WeAreUnited,” reads one of 14 organizing principles written by the group of athletes before its list of demands.
With a more detailed approach, the ACC decided on a 10-conference and one non-conference schedule on July 29. Teams must contest non-conference games in their home states, which eliminated Florida State and North Carolina’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games against West Virginia and Auburn respectively.
ACC teams’ seasons will begin over Sept. 7-12 with the 2020 ACC Championship Game set for either Dec. 12 or 19. The conference will include Notre Dame in its scheduling this year, and the Fighting Irish will contest the ACC title.
While ACC athletes don’t currently have the option to sit out and stay on scholarship, touted Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley announced he will not compete in 2020. The senior potential first-round draft pick wrote that his concern over COVID-19 grew “more and more”, in a column on NBC Sports’ Football Morning in America. Farley cited players’ traveling, a lack of testing by the team and packed indoor training without face coverings as impacting his decision.
“What this came down to is, I lost one parent [in 2018]. My dad is so important to me. Growing old with him means so much to me, more than football. I don’t know what I would do if I contracted it and gave it to him, and he passed. I couldn’t live with that,” Farley wrote.
Last to the update party, the Big 12 announced on Aug. 3 a “9+1” fall schedule, featuring nine conference and one non-conference games. The conference’s board of directors has not settled on a firm season start date, although its statement floated mid-to-late September. Big 12 players currently do not have the choice to opt out of competition and keep their scholarships.
Similar to the ACC, the one non-conference contest will be a home game and must be played before conference competition begins in September. The conference said it expects the 2020 Big 12 Championship Game on either Dec. 12 or 19.
UPDATE: The Big Ten updated it's preliminary July 9 conference-only announcement on Wednesday. The Aug. 5 statement outlines a 10-game, conference-only schedule beginning as early as Sept. 5. Teams can push their starts as far back as Sept. 26 using "strategic sequencing", meant to reschedule early games later in the season. Athletes will have the opportunity to sit out this year and stay in good standing with their respective teams.
Dec. 5 is the tentative date for the Big Ten Championship Game, although Dec. 19 is not off the table, according to the Aug. 5 release.
Shortly after the conference announcement, a group of Big Ten players issued their own petition on behalf of conference players as well as athletes within College Athletic Unity. The organization, described by the document as having members within every major athletic conference and NCAA division, said it supports "the right of all athletes to stand up and speak out."
"Given that the NCAA and conference leadership have not asked for our input, we feel compelled to call for clarity, commitment, and action regarding our common-sense proposal below. We have started a dialogue in good faith with the Big Ten and hope that the NCAA will follow suit. Given the short time frame, and with our season at stake, this conversation must happen now," reads the letter preceding the CAU's "Big Ten Unity Proposal."
The proposal mostly calls for uniform COVID-19 safety protocols, including testing twice per week and before games, contact tracing and isolation procedures.
Differing from the hefty demands related to revenue sharing in the "Pac-12 Football Unity Demands", the Big Ten's proposal mentions institutional coverage of COVID-19-related medical expenses, reimbursement for reduced summer stipends and higher cost of living stipends for players.