Nearly two months after becoming the first FBS conference to cancel fall sports, the MAC has become the last conference to reinstate football for 2020. The decision to return teams to the field was unanimous on Friday, and with that, all 10 FBS conferences will play a season in fall 2020.
The conference begin play on Wednesday Nov. 4 with a six-game, conference-only schedule with the conference championship game being held either on Friday, Dec. 18 or on Saturday, Dec. 19. According to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, MAC teams are likely to only play on weeknights for the month of November before switching to a Saturday schedule in December.
"The Council of Presidents has been having fulsome discussions with our Mid-American Conference medical advisors," said Council of Presidents Chair Dr. Satish Tripathi said in a statement. "Throughout these discussions, we have underscored that the health and safety of our student-athletes, and our entire Mid-American Conference university community, is paramount. As a result, our Conference's medical advisors have established comprehensive protocols and procedures to safeguard our student-athletes during practice and competition. We appreciate the effort of the many medical professionals who have contributed to this sound plan to initiate the fall football season."
The MAC originally canceled its football season while setting its eyes on a spring 2021 campaign because of concerns about the health and safety of its players amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The MAC's decision was then followed by the Mountain West, Big Ten and Pac-12, all of which eschewed football for next year due to various COVID-19 concerns and/or uncertainties.
However, other conferences did not follow the lead. The AAC, ACC, Big 12, Conference USA, SEC and Sun Belt opted to move forward with football. Approaching five weeks into the season, the biggest concern has been postponing and/or canceling games. Entering Saturday, more than 20 games have either been postponed or canceled, many of them coming from the Group of Five ranks.
While these disruptions have proven to be problematic mainly due to contact tracing, advancements in testing have eased at least some of the worries about how the coronavirus pandemic would impact the college football season. Frequent testing, including rapid daily testing, has played a big role in conferences allowing football to be played. As such, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West have opted back in to playing this fall.
In returning to the football field, the MAC in its announcement on Friday revealed that athletes and staff will undergo COVID-19 testing four times per week, with additional protocols to be announced in the near future. No attendance or tailgating will be permitted at games in the 2020 season.
"I am happy to recommend the return of Mid-American Conference Football." Dr. Roger Kruse, MD/FAAFP/FACSM, Head Team Physician at the University of Toledo and chair of the Medical Advisory Group said. "This was made possible by the ability to obtain rapid "point of care" testing. We will test four times a week to assure player safety. This protocol was unanimously approved by the MAC Medical Advisory Group and we feel confident of a safe return."
With the MAC's reversal, 127 of the 130 FBS teams are now playing some type of modified schedule. UConn, Old Dominion and New Mexico State are the only three teams that are not suiting up this fall.