For those trying to keep score at home, the Mountain West has gone from trying to have a season to delaying the start of the season to canceling the season. Since then, there have repeatedly been no changes on that stance, with the last update coming as recently early last week. Late last week, coincidently soon after the Big Ten’s reversal decision, the MWC said they were discussing playing an adjusted season this year. There will be daily meetings this week and hopefully, an announcement by the end of the week.
Here are the latest news and rumors on the Mountain West plans for a football season, according to reporter Jay Tust. Tust has been all over the news the past week, as have several other reporters. To summarize:
- 8 of the 12 teams are confirmed to already by practicing in some way, shape, or form. Two teams are definitely not, and two teams are unknown. Fresno State, one of the two teams not practicing, is aiming to do so two weeks from now.
- At least one team is planning on fall camp starting in two weeks, with games starting sometime around the end of October.
- Meetings are happening daily, as time is of the essence.
- Teams will likely have to engage in split-practices to maintain social distancing practices.
- Hawaii is a huge question mark due to their current state lockdown guidelines.
- Along with Hawaii, Fresno State and Air Force complicate things a bit.
- The biggest hurdle: tests are expensive, and the results are not quick enough.
Secure rapid testing for the conference.
This is not only a no-brainer but also the essential piece of the puzzle if games are to be played at all in 2020. Currently, teams in the Mountain West have expensive tests that have an intermediate turnaround. Expensive means around $100 per test, and by intermediate, it means that results are returned in 3-5 days. If the goal is to test players and coaches once or ideally twice a week, that adds up in a hurry.
Mountain West teams with players on campus and practicing are already engaging in regular testing, so the money was found. Playing football will only bring in more money for testing. With that being said, securing some form or rapid testing is essential to playing games so that tests and test results can be determined close to game day. Saliva tests are gaining popularity due to their near-immediate results and are significantly less expensive to boot. However, they are a bit less accurate but not considerably. It sounds as if the MWC is doing its due diligence with saliva tests before signing off on those.
The bottom line, rapidly getting rapid tests, allows football to return as rapidly as possible.
In or out?
The next step is to determine which Mountain West teams will be playing this season. It sounds like there are three teams either on the fence or at least needing to overcome some hurdles before they can officially sign-on.
The issue: The players aren’t on campus.
When the season was canceled, the Bulldogs sent players home or never had them move to campus in the first place. Not only are they one of three or four teams not currently going through organized workouts, but they would have to have their entire time go through the quarantine process when they get them on campus. This process would either hold up the season or put Fresno State behind the starting line with fall camp.
The guess: In
Don’t worry, on Friday, they announced via Twitter that they have a bold and creative plan to get players back on campus. The guess would be the bold and creative plan is to move each player from their home to campus, have them quarantine, get tested, and then start practicing.
The issue: The state is in a lockdown. Also, they are very far away from everyone else.
The lockdown is set to expire on Thursday. However, the conference may want to make a decision before then. With the current landscape, waiting a few more days could put the MWC behind a few weeks.
Perhaps the more significant issue is the state not wanting people traveling in and out during the pandemic. Hawaii has had an advantage compared to other states during Covid-19; being on a literal island has allowed them to be on a figurative island and thus keep a lower number of cases compared to other states. It would be understandable if the government decided it did not want to assume the travel risks of playing football.
The guess: Out
It’s too short of a timeframe for Hawaii to figure things out. They decide to keep their lockdown going, citing safety and results.
The issue: They have a game scheduled in November against Army.
Air Force scheduled the two games that pertain to the Commander-In-Chief Trophy under the assumption that football would not be played in the MWC conference this season. Now that they are trying to change all of that, the Falcons face quite the dilemma. Of course, they want to play conference games and more games, but the Army and Navy games are their two biggest rivals and held in high standards.
The guess: In
Move Army game up and give them an exemption to start before the start date. They were already the exception in the conference for playing two games this fall, so what’s the difference? Practicing and two games before the rest of the conference give them an advantage. The unknown status of Donald Hammond III and just how many players were granted turnbacks likely nullifies any potential advantage. Also, who cares? Play the games.
Set a schedule and a start date.
This is the latest on a start date coming from the weekend:
I can confirm the Mountain West is aiming for Oct. 24 start, even with conference decision to come this week. @BruceFeldmanCFB reported on FOX.— James Crepea (@JamesCrepea) September 19, 2020
“Vast majority” of coaches on board with 4 weeks of preseason camp, per source.
Planning for October 24th likely means everything can be ready by October 31st. Anything later and it probably won’t work. For the purposes of this article, let’s go with opening weekend on the 31st.
With 11 teams playing, things get a bit tricky. Starting October 1st, and choosing to go to mid-December, the conference could play seven or eight games if it wanted to before having a conference championship game. But in the event Hawaii does not play, the West division is short a team. The solution would be to suspend divisions for the 2020 season.
Basically, pick names out of a hat. Everyone plays seven games, and a team will have a bye every week. If Air Force does not want to or can’t move their game against Army, they will then forfeit their bye week and play a non-conference game.
The goal for this season is to play games. A schedule may not be even or fair, but it’s a positive to have a schedule. The teams with the top two records pay against one another for the conference championship. Assign tie-breakers based on games against teams with .500 records, point differential, or flip a coin, who cares? Play the games.
What happens if a team can’t play that week? Should the other team have the option of trying to play the bye team? Or is every week not guaranteed? Whatever the case may be, those scenarios need to be figured out as well.
There is still a lot to figure out and little time in which to do it. However, the good news is it is doable, and the season is still salvageable.