The Big Sky Conference and Pioneer Football League have postponed their fall football seasons, making the official announcement today.
The Big Sky will play its conference schedule in the spring, while non-conference games are still under review. “Non-conference play for the conference’s football programs is still pending further review. The Big Sky has begun exploring modified versions of a conference football schedule to be played in the spring and fully supports the NCAA shifting the FCS championship to the spring,” the press release states.
The PFL, which already canceled non-conference games, will “explore meaningful opportunities and experiences for football student-athletes this academic year, if this can be done reasonably and safely.”
With these combined 22 teams postponing, more than 50 percent of playoff-eligible teams have postponed their fall season. This means the FCS playoffs will not be held during the fall.
An NCAA Board of Governors’ requirement was announced earlier this week that “If 50% or more of eligible teams in a particular sport in a division cancel their fall season, there will be no fall NCAA championship in that sport in that division.”
Before the decisions by the Big Sky and PFL were made, about 69 out of 119 playoff-eligible teams still had not postponed. The number of playoff-eligible teams was thought to be 111, but Football Scoop’s Zach Barnett confirmed with the NCAA that the Ivy League schools count toward that figure even though they do not participate in the playoffs.
So after the NCAA BOG released the 50 percent guideline, the FCS sat at 57.9 percent of playoff-eligible teams still on for the fall. With the Big Sky and PFL postponing their fall season, that percentage drops to 39.5.
The remaining FCS conferences that haven’t postponed yet — Big South, MVFC, OVC, SoCon and Southland — have not made announcements as of this typing.
Teams from southern FCS conferences appear motivated to play this fall. Charleston Southern athletic director Jeff Barber said the Buccaneers are determined to play their season this fall, whether there is a playoff to aim for or not.
Chattanooga head coach Rusty Wright tweeted his team is looking for games and his players want to play.
Central Arkansas AD Brad Teague told George Stoia III “as of right now, the Southland Conference still intends to play football this fall even if there is no FCS playoffs. And if the Southland postpones or cancels football, UCA will still try to play.”
If the NCAA moves ahead with a spring playoff, it is unknown how that would work and if teams playing in the fall could play in the spring bracket.
But if the playoffs are to be held in the spring, a conference like the MVFC would surely adjust its schedule so their teams can compete for a national title. The top three teams in HERO Sports’ preseason Top 25 are all from the Valley — No. 1 NDSU, No. 2 SDSU and No. 3 UNI.
“We will now shift our attention to doing everything within our power to provide our football student-athletes and coaches with a conference schedule and a championship opportunity in the spring,” Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said in a press release. “We already have begun actively engaging our fellow FCS conferences and the NCAA to join us then for what will be a unique opportunity to return to competition and compete for an FCS championship.”