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FCS College Football: Where the 2020 Season Stands in Mid-July

FCS College Football: Where the 2020 Season Stands in Mid-July

FCS College Football: Where the 2020 Season Stands in Mid-July

When we see those great old clips of games on the "frozen tundra," the players are breathing heavily out of their helmets.

Images like that make you ponder: How in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic can college football pull off a 2020 season?

Fortunately, that goal is still driving people in the sport, although it may be wishful thinking and inevitably a fall season will be scrapped like the end of winter sports and much of the spring season.

The emotional roller-coaster feels at a low point midway through July — just a few weeks before the planned start of preseason camps. It wasn't that long ago stakeholders across the 127-school FCS, from commissioners to athletic directors to coaches, were optimistic of a 2020 campaign. It was after student-athletes began to return to some campuses for voluntary workouts that positive coronavirus tests took off, and the pessimism grew.

Two of the 13 FCS conferences — the Ivy and Patriot leagues — have announced they will not have a fall season, leaving open the possibility of playing next spring. Hampton then became the first school to pull the plug on its season in an FCS conference (Big South) that still plans to have a 2020 campaign. Those decisions have come on top of the cancelation of a number of individual games, including "classics" that bring together HBCU teams in neutral stadiums and the lucrative FCS vs. FBS matchups.

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Just as impactful as the FCS-level decisions were the Big Ten and Pac-12 — two Power 5 conferences — announcing a switch to conference-only schedules. More FBS conferences figure to make similar decisions by the end of July. That, too, appears to be one of the places the FCS is headed — mostly conference-only schedules or, well, more schools and conferences eliminating competition this fall.

The former would give teams anywhere from five to nine games, depending on the conference. It's also possible conferences with fewer games would allow a regional game or two, especially if it entails a short bus trip for the visiting team and avoids flights.

Amid all of this, schools and conferences are still determining whether they have the funding and proper protocols to keep the people involved safe and healthy, and to stem COVID-19 outbreaks. Football, of course, isn't a sport that promotes social distancing (you can't space out the linemen every six feet, right?), so there are many obstacles built-in.

Everybody (AD, commissioner, et al) had been waiting for someone else to make decisions, and now that schools and conferences are slowly making them, a flood of announcements will follow near the end of July. The hope is for good news, but that's feeling more unlikely.

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

(Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart Athletics)