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First FBS conference cancels football season

Published: Aug. 8, 2020 at 11:33 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND (AP/WSAZ) - The Mid-American Conference has become the first league competing at college football’s highest level to cancel its fall season because of COVID-19 concerns.

With the MAC’s 12 schools facing a significant financial burden by trying to maintain costly coronavirus protocols, the conference’s university presidents made the decision to cancel all fall sports - including soccer and volleyball - and explore making them up in the spring season.

MAC schools, including the Ohio University Bobcats, rely heavily on revenue from playing road games against power conference teams. Most of those games were canceled when the Power Five went to exclusively or mostly conference schedules.

Without the non-conference games, the strain of trying to implement all that it would take to keep players and staff safe during a pandemic became too much. Ohio University was scheduled to play at Boston College this upcoming season.

“The health and safety of our student athletes, coaches and athletics support staff remain Ohio University’s top priority in the midst of the global health crisis,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said in a statement. “We recognize the disappointment that will be felt by the Bobcat nation this fall but it is our hope that we will be able to cheer on the OHIO Bobcats in the spring if it is safe to do so.”

Ohio University has played a football season every fall since 1944, according to University records.

The conference that built a brand name — #MACtion — and managed to score an ESPN deal by playing football games on Tuesdays and Wednesday nights is now the first to surrender to the pandemic, hoping it can regroup in with a spring season.

“While we are disappointed for our student-athletes, coaches, support staff and fans, we understand that today’s decision was made with the best interest of all in mind,” Ohio University Director of Athletics Julie Cromer said in a statement. “I’m extremely proud of our student-athletes for their resiliency during this difficult time. We look forward to the day when we can safely return to competition.”

Nine of 13 conferences at Division I’s second-tier of football, the Championship Subdivision, have already announced postponed their fall football seasons, with an eye toward making them up in the spring.

But in FBS, conferences have been putting plans in place to — however tentative — for the coming season. The Power Five went first and then the so-called Group of Five, with the American Athletic, Sun Belt, Mountain West and Conference USA all finalizing schedule models this week.

The MAC was the last one without a stated plan. A meeting of its presidents earlier in the week was expected to produce an agreement on how to go about a fall season, but instead some schools pushed to not play.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest developments and reaction to this breaking story.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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