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Big 12, ACC, SEC Pushing Forward With Fall Football

Brock Fritz

The Power Five conferences have split.

In the wake of the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponing fall sports until 2021, the Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences have said they are going to attempt to move forward with competition during the COVID-19 pandemic this fall.

The ACC is currently planning to start its 11-game football schedule Sept. 10, while the SEC is aiming for 10 games starting Sept. 26, and the Big 12 is expected to announce a 10-game schedule for each team in the coming days. SoonerScoop reported Tuesday that the Big 12 Board of Governors’ Tuesday meeting resulted in no action, while Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported that a medical panel briefed the Big 12 officials for 90 minutes. According to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is holding a 12 p.m. ET news conference to give further updates.

Everything is up in the air, however. The Big Ten proved how quickly circumstances can change by releasing 10-game schedules on Aug. 5, six days before officially calling the season off on Tuesday. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have both said they will look to play some form of fall sports in the spring of 2021.

Related content: Big Ten Athletes Make Demands for Playing During Pandemic

The different approaches from the five most powerful conferences in NCAA sports come, in part, from different doctors and medical advisors. ESPN reported Monday that myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, has recently been found in at least five Big Ten athletes.

"There has been a lot of discussion about myocarditis," Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told Big Ten Network Tuesday. "Any time you're talking about the heart of anyone, but especially a young person, you have to be concerned. We want to make sure we're doing everything we possibly can to keep our student-athletes safe."

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The ACC is hearing different advice. According to Sports Business Daily, Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist and chair of the ACC’s medical advisory team, said doctors have learned how to manage risks that coronavirus poses.

“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Wolfe told Sports Business Daily Tuesday. “Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.”

“The ACC will continue to make decisions based on medical advice, inclusive of our Medical Advisory Group, local and state health guidelines, and do so in a way that appropriately coincides with our universities’ academic missions,” the ACC said Tuesday in a statement. “The safety of our students, staff and overall campus communities will always be our top priority, and we are pleased with the protocols being administrated on our 15 campuses. We will continue to follow our process that has been in place for months and has served us well. We understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information and the landscape evolves.”

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey followed suit, releasing a statement saying, “I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today. I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes. We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day.”

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