ACC, Big 12 eyeing late July for fall sports ruling

The ACC expects to make a decision “in late July” that will determine how its college football schedule will look, according to a statement from conference commissioner John Swofford released on Friday, and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN that his league is “kind of on the same schedule.”

The timetable comes a day after the Big Ten announced it adopted a conference-only model for fall sports this season — the first drastic college football scheduling move by a Power 5 conference in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Over the last few months, our conference has prepared numerous scenarios related to the fall athletics season,” Swofford said in the prepared statement. “The league membership and our medical advisory group will make every effort to be as prepared as possible during these unprecedented times, and we anticipate a decision by our Board of Directors in late July.”

Speculation has run rampant in the past 24 hours over how the other four major conferences might react to the Big Ten’s decision. Multiple SEC sources have told ESPN the conference athletic directors will talk on Monday in a meeting that was scheduled before the Big Ten’s announcement, but that the league also hopes to wait as long as possible before making any major decisions.

Swofford said the ACC will continue to work with the university presidents on forthcoming decisions.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and administrators remains the ACC’s top priority,” Swofford said. “As we continue to work on the best possible path forward for the return of competition, we will do so in a way that appropriately coincides with our universities’ academic missions.”

Bowlsby told ESPN on Friday that the Big 12 is on a similar time frame as the ACC and said the ideal situation remains a full, 12-game schedule that starts on Labor Day weekend. Because the Big 12 conference only has 10 teams, its conference-only model would likely be a nine-game season, unless it was able to play a schedule comprised entirely of Power 5 opponents, Bowlsby said. That would of course require other leagues to have teams available.

“There are other choices you could come up with,” he said as far as other models.

As a result of the Big Ten’s decision, the Big 12 lost West Virginia’s matchup against Maryland, and Iowa State’s rivalry game against Iowa.

“It’s a data point, and we’re sorry to lose the games to them for this year’s schedule, but there’s not much we can do about that,” Bowlsby said of the Big Ten. “As we go forward, we’re going to have our own set of criteria. We’re mostly relying on the advice of scientists and doctors who are advising us. We believe the decisions ought to be made slightly later.”

Bowlsby said he wasn’t expecting the Big Ten news. “I was surprised because we had been on a call earlier in the day and it didn’t sound like that was going to happen,” he said, “but strange things occur during meetings and you don’t always have control over them, so I understand those things.”

Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said he wasn’t expecting the decision yesterday, either.

“I was surprised at the timing,” he said. “It came before I thought there would be a decision made, but so be it. In a perfect world, all 10 FBS’s would be moving together, but that doesn’t happen, so here we are. We will all manage and move forward.”

When asked if the collaboration amongst the Power 5 commissioners has dissipated, Bowlsby said “we’re working at it the best we can.”

“It’s always better to collaborate,” he said, “but we also all understand presidents, and athletic directors and conference office staff have the prerogative to go their way, and sometimes they do, too.”

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