Thursday brought some drastic changes to the college football landscape.
The Big Ten announced Thursday it will move to a conference-only schedule for fall sports. Later in the afternoon, reports from The Athletic and Stadium have the Atlantic Coast and Pacific 12 conferences following suit.
For now, the beat will still go on for Missouri and its Southeastern Conference counterparts.
Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said in a Zoom call with reporters Thursday that Missouri and the SEC haven’t made any firm plans for fall sports .
“We’re not there yet,” Sterk said.
Missouri and the SEC are still waiting out the coronavirus pandemic before they make any sweeping changes as the clock ticks towards the fall semester. If Missouri were to start its season on time, it would begin with fall camp before a Sept. 2 season opener against Central Arkansas, one of Missouri’s four non-conference opponents in its 12-game schedule.
“As we get closer towards the end of July, we’ll be coming up with plans that we can present to the chancellors and presidents on what we think fall can look like,” Sterk said. “But there’s a bunch of different models for football ... We’ll be prepared to adjust if necessary to a schedule that best accommodates what we’re hearing from the medical officials and campus officials at the time.”
Sterk said that he is still having bi-weekly calls with the other SEC ADs and they are working through possible scenarios for the fall without any firm plans, but the biggest driving force in MU and the SEC’s decision making will be how the COVID-19 pandemic develops.
“It continues to change daily and weekly, and in a month, in two months, I’m hopeful it’s a heck of a lot better and things are better than what we have,” Sterk said. “If not, then we have to pivot and adjust our plans.”
The idea of a conference-only schedule hasn’t been ruled out and could be a possible pivot for Sterk and the SEC if they want to salvage their main revenue stream. The idea of moving the season to the spring has not been discussed, Sterk said.
“Probably it’s a comfort level of how protocols are being enacted, how testing is done and then keeping it within that family if you will, it’s an expanded social circle or social pod,” Sterk said. “You might be able to control things more that way, or feel like you can anyway, versus the unknown of people coming from outside of our 11 states that are our footprint of the SEC.”
Missouri announced a total of 10 positive cases Wednesday, but Sterk said that through contact tracing, none of those cases have come from the athletic department’s voluntary workouts. The total positive rate is 2.6% but five of Missouri’s last 70 tests have been positive, a rate of 7.1%.
Missouri has been testing athletes initially when they arrived in waves to campus for voluntary workouts, but student-athletes and staff have only been tested again if they develop symptoms of the virus. Part of Missouri’s return to campus protocol includes daily temperature and symptom checks. Other procedures are in place, including a mandatory five-day self-isolation period if a student-athlete leaves Columbia for a 12-24 hour period.
Sterk said another round of testing is expected for football players before preseason camp starts on Aug. 7. He also said the ticket office has 13 scenarios for seating and ticketing this fall and the department is spending the most time on its model of 50% capacity because it is easier to adjust.