The Big 12 Conference became the most important league in the land Tuesday, and according to reports, the conference is siding with the most dominant college football conferences.
After the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced plans to cancel fall sports – including football – for the upcoming school year, attention focused on the Big 12 as the swing vote, with the SEC and ACC already making it known they intended to move forward toward a season.
Multiple reports quoted anonymous sources that the Big 12 presidents decided to stay the course with attempting to have a fall football season, which was already altered to be a 10-game season, trimming two nonconference games, with a likely start date of Sept. 12 and conference play beginning Sept. 26.
According to Yahoo! Sports, a source reportedly said it was expected that the Big 12 announcement would include “enhanced medical protocols” that include increased testing for COVID-19 and “testing for cardiac issues if an athlete tests positive.”
This would fall in line with a concern Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby expressed in an interview over the weekend with the Dallas Morning News.
“… (T)he last two or three weeks have not been good to us. You’d be less than forthright if you didn’t acknowledge between the myocarditis and some of the other things that are new, it hasn’t raised the concern level,” Bowlsby was quoted. “But nothing has been decided at this point.”
Myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle that can reduce the heart’s ability to pump and cause rapid or abnormal heart rhythms – had been linked to COVID-19, with Boston Red Sox ace pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez having to sit out this MLB season due to the ailment. According to CBS Sports, a source within the Big Ten state at least 15 league players have the heart ailment after contracting COVID-19.
The Big 12 has not yet released its new schedule for the football slate, but it is believed that it could be announced this week along with the league’s official announcement of moving forward with fall sports. The league had already announced the possible delay of the conference championship by a week or two from the originally scheduled Dec. 5 at AT&T Stadium.
Obviously one of the biggest obstacles the Big 12 – along with the SEC and ACC – faces will be the introduction of general public students on campus and the potential for a spike locally in COVID-19 cases.
At Oklahoma State, students began moving in over the weekend, and a drive through the heart of the campus showed differing levels of student response in regards to precautions – with a mix of groups walking while wearing masks, and other groups not wearing masks and not concerned with social distancing.
According to the CDC website, the states that are seeing the largest spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past seven days are focused in the states in which the leagues want to play football. Eight of the top 10 states in reported cases in the past week are home to Big 12, SEC and ACC programs – Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina – with each state reporting over 8,000 cases in the past seven days.