LARAMIE — A model for a potential spring football season is in the works.
The NCAA Football Oversight Committee plans to recommend an eight-game season for conferences that have postponed their fall football seasons, according to a report from ESPN. The proposal would include 29 days to get in 15 practices in preparation for a spring season that would have to be completed by April 17.
The Mountain West is one of four Football Bowl Subdivision conferences that have postponed fall sports amid the coronavirus pandemic. Teams that aren’t playing this fall are allowed 12 hours each week for required activities, including five hours of on-field workouts with helmets.
The oversight committee’s recommendation doesn’t include a uniformed start date. Instead, all conferences that have pushed their seasons back would have 13 weeks to complete their respective seasons whenever they decide to resume. If any of those leagues decide to begin their season before the spring — the Big Ten has reportedly discussed the possibility of starting its season Thanksgiving weekend — then they wouldn’t be permitted those 15 practices, according to ESPN’s report.
The recommendations must be approved by the Division I Council, which is scheduled to meet again Sept. 16.
West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, who chairs the oversight committee, told ESPN the committee’s recommendation is designed to give those conferences flexibility to complete their respective seasons. Leagues that start earlier than the spring would be able to schedule additional games within the 13-week span, but conferences that wait until the spring would be limited to eight games.
Lyons told ESPN the April 17 deadline for conferences to complete their seasons is “key because we’re trying to get it to where there’s enough time between the last competition and starting back in August and having a normal ‘21-22 football season.
“There’s expectation that the coaches, the conferences and the medical experts work through what the spring and competition would look like from a health-and-safety standpoint.”
Exactly how a spring season on that kind of timeline would work for a program like Wyoming remains to be seen. UW athletic director Tom Burman has voiced concern about the Cowboys starting a spring season before March, which is when UW normally begins spring football practice.
Burman recently told the Star-Tribune that a spring season at UW would ideally be played from March to May, but that was assuming a full 12-game schedule. With the committee’s recommended mid-April cutoff, UW would need to start playing in late February of 2021 at the latest in order to complete an eight-game schedule, which could get dicey with snow and bitterly cold winters being the norm in the state.
“Obviously COVID-19 is a big health issue, but if you play a game in Laramie, Wyoming, at 7,220 feet (of elevation) or in Colorado Springs or Logan, Utah, in February, good luck,” Burman told the Star-Tribune earlier this summer.
With the four conferences hoping to resume football later this year or in the spring, questions have also surfaced about the status of mid-year enrollees. Junior college transfers and early high school graduates routinely start classes in January so that they can go through spring practice, but Lyons told The Associated Press that early enrollees won’t be able to compete in winter or spring seasons if conferences are playing games then.
“They can practice but not compete,” Lyons said.
Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter.
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