The Mountain West will test for COVID-19 three times a week, play an eight-game season and will hope all 12 members can join in the action.
Those were some of the takeaways from a Friday conference call with officials from the Colorado Springs-based conference after it released some of the details of its reopening plan for fall football.
The conference will team with Quest Diagnostics for testing, with the Mountain West paying for it. Athletes and all coaches, trainers or managers in close contact with the team will be tested three times each week.
While no schedule was released, commissioner Craig Thompson hinted as to how Air Force will fit in its conference schedule while keeping Navy (Oct. 3) and Army (No. 7) on the schedule. The game against Navy will be completed three weeks before the Mountain West begins, so that requires no finagling. As for the Army game, because Boise State plans to play BYU, it will likely work for the league to give Boise State and Air Force seven games apiece on the league schedule and have them not play each other.
“They may end up playing nine games and everybody else seven because of Army and Navy, but those will be determined,” Thompson said. “Nobody has a crystal ball as to what’s going to happen on anyone’s schedule throughout October and November.”
Specific regulations haven’t been announced in terms of how many cases will be allowed before a team must miss a competition, but Thompson stressed that the tight eight-week framework for the season before a Dec. 19 conference championship will not allow for postponements. Any missed games will be canceled.
Thompson also said the league stands to provide enough inventory of games to meet its end of its media rights deal, but cancellations could change that.
The conference championship game will be played at the site of the team with the highest ranking, but a final determination of how the participants will be picked has not been set. As of the now the plan is to stick with division champions from the Mountain and the West, but that could be amended.
The commissioner was also the first to confirm on the record that Air Force has utilized large amounts of administrative turnbacks within its football team. Air Force has not commented on the issue. Those players have separated from the academy and will not be available this semester.
“My understanding, I spoke to Troy Calhoun on Wednesday … is I think as many as even in the high 30s took advantage of the turnback and are off this semester and will not be a part of the football program,” Thompson said.
Air Force released a statement from new superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark. Here it is in its entirety:
“I support the Mountain West Conference’s commitment to keep medical guidance, standards and testing at the forefront of their decision to begin fall sports next month.
Everyone should know that my number one priority, and the number one priority for this institution, is the health and safety of all cadets and these cadet-athletes.
To the parents, the Colorado Springs community and our alumni: I am very proud of the innovative opportunities the faculty and staff have implemented to best support and protect our cadets during their academic and athletic pursuits. I have the full confidence in the Athletic Department’s commitment to constantly refine our ability to adapt and function to best support our cadet athletes, consistent with local and national health guidance.
We will continue to adapt and excel in this COVID-19 environment, both on the athletic field and in the classroom, to ensure we continue developing future Air Force and Space Force officers."