Big 12’s Bowlsby ‘bullish’ football to start on time

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said on Friday that he is “bullish about our opportunity” for the college football season to start on time, echoing a growing confidence among leaders throughout college athletics as they continue to navigate their way through the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m bullish about our opportunity, and more so than I was 30 days ago,” Bowlsby said, “… and I hope I’m even more so 30 days henceforth.”

Bowlsby spoke to a small group of reporters on a video call following the conclusion of the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors’ spring business meeting.

TCU chancellor Victor Boschini, who is the chair of the board, shared Bowlsby’s optimism for college football to resume on time, saying, “I think it’s going to happen,” but he expressed concern about the possibility of the football stadium being less than half full.

“It’s going to be a huge hit, and in general we’re losing money by the minute in every area because of this,” Boschini said. “By May 30 … we’ll lose about $50 million on our campus for different reasons because of COVID-19, but as far as how we’re going to make it up, we’re scrambling to do that right now. We’re cutting costs everywhere.”

Bowlsby reiterated that for college football to kick off on its tentative start date of Aug. 29, teams must return to practice by mid-July, which is in line with what the Football Oversight Committee is expected to recommend. On Thursday, Yahoo Sports reported the FOC is expected to suggest a six-week preseason camp, but it has to be approved by the NCAA Division I Council.

“The [American Football Coaches Association] was working off of a six-week model,” Bowlsby said. “It may get shoved around a little bit, but I think it’s probably pretty close to what we’ll end up with.”

When college sports does return, athletic directors and commissioners across the country have recognized and acknowledged that there will be positive coronavirus tests and situations that will require what Bowlsby called “real-time decisions.” He said the Big 12 has a group of athletic directors working on those hypothetical situations now.

“There are additional things they’re working on, like how do you safeguard the game officials?” Bowlsby said. “How do you make sure they’re properly tested and known to be negative before they’re coming in contact with players? How do you take care of the sideline personnel and essential game management people? Do you allow bands on the field? On the road games, do you allow pep bands to come, or are we going to embargo that for a period of time? Do cheerleaders have to have masks on? … Those kinds of things are the things this group of athletic directors is working on.”

Bowlsby also addressed the possibility that there could be a second wave of the virus, or a team might not be able to play a game because of infections.

“Those kinds of things are going to have to be dealt with in real time, but we have to do scenario-planning in advance or we’re not going to be ready for them.”

Bowlsby was also asked about a recent CBS Sports article that speculated about the possibility of the Power 5 conferences separating from the rest of the NCAA.

“I’m about as dyed in the wool of the NCAA as anybody you could name,” he said. “I’ve been involved in leadership positions for a very long time. It’s not without its critics, that is for sure, but I think any suggestions that anything like that is in the offing are not accurate at this point.”

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