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Wyoming 'might explore it,' but don't expect Cowboys to play football independently, athletic director says
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Wyoming 'might explore it,' but don't expect Cowboys to play football independently, athletic director says

Border War

Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay breaks through the line against Colorado State during their annual Border War rivalry game on Nov. 22, 2019, at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. The Cowboys aren't expected to explore the possibility of playing independently this season.

LARAMIE — Even with the Mountain West’s decision to postpone fall sports indefinitely, could the University of Wyoming still play a football season before the end of the year?

The odds are slim. And even that’s being optimistic.

“I think you’d have to play six or seven games to even consider it. That’s my take on it,” UW athletic director Tom Burman said. “But I haven’t really spent a lot of time on it because that’s not going to happen.”

The Mountain West’s decision to join other Football Bowl Subdivision conferences in calling off the fall football season in the face of the coronavirus pandemic leaves UW and the league’s other 11 football members hoping a season can be salvaged in the spring. But one of those members, Air Force, is still trying to play the other service academies on its schedule this fall (Army and Navy) while Nebraska coach Scott Frost suggested earlier this week the school will explore the possibility of playing an independent schedule following the Big Ten’s decision to kill fall football.

“We want to play no matter where it is or who it is, so we’ll see how all those chips fall,” Frost told reporters. “We certainly hope it’s in the Big Ten, but if it isn’t, I think we’re prepared to look for other options.”

UW could also try to play independently of the Mountain West, but in order to do that, the school would have to get league-wide approval, which is one of many hoops UW would have to jump through before it could even think about it, Burman told the Star-Tribune in a phone interview.

“It wouldn’t be my decision,” Burman said. “It would be the presidents’, and we’d have to go back in front of the conference and ask for permission. You can’t just one-off things like that.

“So the answer is, would we look into it? Yeah, we probably would look into it. We’d have to start with the presidents of the other schools in the league. We’d have to start with our president and then the other presidents and make sure they were comfortable with that.”

Even on the off chance UW got the OK from the conference, finding enough teams to play at this point is another issue. The SEC, ACC, Big 12, Sun Belt and Conference USA are the only FBS leagues that haven’t yet canceled their football seasons for the fall, and many of the teams’ schedules are finalized.

Since Nebraska’s threat to play independently, Burman said he’s heard the question often: Why doesn’t UW try to play the Big Ten school in the neighboring state? At the most, that would net two games, which isn’t nearly enough to justify putting a year of players’ eligibility at risk, Burman countered.

“First of all, Nebraska is not going to get released from the Big Ten. I don’t care what they say,” Burman said. “But if they wanted to play us home-and-home two games, we’re not going to burn a kid’s year of eligibility for two games.

“Wyoming has always wanted to play, and we feel like we are at the present time healthy enough to play. If I felt there was a way and there was interest from other schools outside of Army, Navy and Air Force, we might explore it. But it’s got to be a full schedule. It doesn’t make any sense to play three games or four games. We’d burn a year of your clock. It’s different for the Air Force Academy. They get prep school and four years. That’s it. Whether they play three games this year, two games or no games, one year is gone.”

Another hurdle would be maintaining the football team’s health. UW has yet to knowingly have anyone within its athletic department test positive for COVID-19 since the school started bringing student-athletes back to campus in June, and all football players were retested last week before the Cowboys were scheduled to open fall camp.

The football team is still clean, and Burman said UW isn’t going to risk that any more than it has to by playing anybody just for the sake of having a fall schedule.

“We’re going to only play schools that are testing significantly and are healthy,” Burman said. “That has been a concern of mine all summer long.”

Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter @DavisEPotter.

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College Sports Reporter

Davis Potter is the University of Wyoming athletics reporter. An Alabama native and 2011 Auburn University graduate, Potter joined the Star-Tribune in 2018 after five years covering Ole Miss and the Southeastern Conference. He lives in Laramie.

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