The Big 12 Conference announced Wednesday fall sports will continue as scheduled. The decision came after the Big 12 Board of Directors met Tuesday evening.
“Ultimately, our student-athletes have indicated their desire to compete in the sports they love this season and it is up to all of us to deliver a safe, medically sound, and structured academic and athletic environment for accomplishing that outcome,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in the Big 12’s press release on Wednesday morning.
Big 12 competitions will begin after September 1, with football playing one non-conference game in addition to the conference schedule. Volleyball and soccer matches are limited to conference play.
The return to sports will be heavily monitored by the Big 12 and includes “enhanced COVID-19 testing.” This enhanced testing includes three tests per week for sports deemed to be “high contact,” such as football, soccer and volleyball.
Big 12 testing protocols must be followed by Arkansas State, K-State’s one non-conference opponent.
Athletic Director Gene Taylor said in a press conference Wednesday morning K-State would be willing to help pay for the two extra tests required by the Big 12 for Arkansas State. The Red Wolves currently only need to test once a week to abide by NCAA guidelines.
The conference also outlined the measures teams must take when it comes to athletes returning to play after a positive test.
“Return to play protocols after positive occurrences will include an EKG, troponin blood test, echocardiogram, and cardiac MRI,” the statement read.
“Opinions vary regarding the best path forward, as we’ve seen throughout higher education and our society overall, but we are comfortable in our institutions’ ability to provide a structured training environment, rigorous testing and surveillance, hospital quality sanitation and mitigation practices that optimize the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Bowlsby said in the Big 12 statement.
As far as having fans in the stands goes, Taylor said there are multiple proposals, but is still waiting on word from local health officials on how many fans will be allowed.
“We do know that it is going to be limited but we don’t know what that number will be,” Taylor said.
As it stands right now, K-State football is the only fall sports team at the university with an officially revised schedule, beginning on Sept. 12 against Arkansas State and ending on Dec. 5 against Texas. The Big 12 championship game is currently set for Dec. 12.
“We’re committed to try to play football, but we’re also committed to make sure we’re going to do it safe and that our athletes are not going to be in any additional harm,” Taylor said.
The Big 12 has also hasn’t finalized what will determine a cancelation for a game over the season.
“That’s one thing we’re still working through with our coaches, in terms of what is going to require cancelation,” Taylor said. “What’s the percentage of athletes that may not be available to play, that’s one thing that we haven’t finalized yet, but it will be a conference decision.”
Some speculate non-conference members will reach out to the Big 12 about becoming a temporary member. When asked about the possibility of adding temporary members to the conference, however, Bowlsby responded by saying that there was no plan for doing that at the current time.
Student-athletes concerned about their eligibility if the season were to be canceled prematurely will be getting answers within the coming weeks. Bowlsby said that the NCAA council will be meeting to discuss the issue.
At the moment, the season seems to have been saved, but Big 12 officials will continue to monitor the situation day-to-day.
“We remain vigilant in monitoring the trends and effects of COVID 19 as we learn more about the virus,” Big 12 Board of Directors Chairman Chancellor Victor Boschini said. “If at any point our scientists and doctors conclude that our institutions cannot provide a safe and appropriate environment for our participants, we will change course.”