The Mountain West is considering a return to the field that could see its teams begin playing college football in late October, conference sources told CBS Sports late Monday. The league's presidents will meet Friday and at least consider voting on whether to move forward with playing the season.
The Mountain West is aiming to play an eight-game, conference-only schedule starting Oct. 24 with a league championship game on Dec. 19, a structure that mimics what the Big Ten approved for its return to play last week.
However, the Mountain West will not move forward with a return to play plan until the league approves a COVID-19 testing protocol. The plan is for the conference's medical advisory board to finalize the protocol, which includes COVID-19 testing three times a week. League presidents will consider their options in a Friday meeting.
The league's medical advisory board is still sifting through options, including whether to use three antigen tests per week or two antigen tests and one PCR test. Neither test is 100% effective, but the layering and frequency of tests is thought to make play safer for participants.
Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel first reported Monday that Mountain West officials are "optimistic" about a return to play.
Even if the Mountain West establishes a return to play plan, there is no certainty all 12 conference members will be able to proceed together, CBS Sports has learned.
Local health restrictions have impacted the three schools in California -- Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State. San Diego State is likely in the best shape to proceed, according to sources. Fresno State, on the other hand, has faced difficulty practicing because of local COVID-19 restrictions.
"I don't think everybody has an illusion everybody is going to play the same amount of games," said one Mountain West source.
With an eight-game schedule, the Mountain West would give its champion an opportunity to compete for a New Year's Six bowl berth. The AAC has dominated those automatic New Year's Six berths in the six-year history of the College Football Playoff.
The Big Ten has been able to return to play by moving toward to daily, point-of-care testing. The Pac-12 previously announced daily testing. Its presidents are expected to discuss whether to proceed with a fall season on Thursday.
Daily testing significantly reduces the need for contact tracing -- tracking down those who have been in contact with persons who have tested positive.
The Mountain West originally voted to postpone college football for the fall on Aug. 10.