The Big 12 Conference unveiled its revised football schedule today just minutes before commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed that the league would move forward with competition in Fall sports in the age of coronavirus.
The Big 12’s announcement came after the Big 10 and Pacific-12 conferences announced Aug. 11 that they had canceled sports for the fall and were exploring playing fall-season sports in the spring.
The decision also affects the conference’s other Fall sports: volleyball, golf and soccer will play beginning in late August.
The Big 12’s 10 football teams will square off in nine league games and one non-conference contest, with its championship game set for either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19 in Arlington, Texas. The conference portion of the grid has been delayed until Sept. 26.
“I feel good about it,” Bowlsby said when asked if he expects the football season to go off without a hitch. “It’s hard to handicap those kinds of things. If anybody is around you that says they can accurately forecast what’s going to happen with the virus, they’re delusional.
“It’s an ever-evolving environment. We'll find ourselves in bumpy spots in the fall — there isn't any doubt about that — but I think we’re very well-prepared to deal with that.”
The new schedule has some changes for every team and some gaps on the calendar to allow teams to respond to issues that could come up over between now and mid-December.
The No. 14 Texas Longhorns’ Big 12 schedule now includes:
Sept. 26: at Texas Tech
Oct. 3: TCU
Oct. 10: Oklahoma (at Cotton Bowl in Dallas)
Oct. 24: Baylor
Oct. 31: at Oklahoma State
Nov. 7: West Virginia
Nov. 21: at Kansas
Nov. 28: Iowa State
Dec. 5: at Kansas State
Texas coach Tom Herman praised the Big 12’s leadership for its thoroughness in the decision to move ahead with the Fall football schedule.
“I had been very hopeful that the Big 12 would come to this decision,” Herman said Wednesday afternoon. “Our guys are really excited. We understand all of the health and safety challenges and appreciate everything our medical team is doing here, but probably the worst thing about all of this has been the uncertainty. It has been very hard on our players mentally, and they’ve done a great job fighting through it.”
Listen to Brian Davis of Austin American-Statesman discuss the great news and insights on this weeks podcast recorded just hours after the new schedule was released.
Before deciding on a definitive direction, the Big 12 also solicited input from at least two players from each team, some of whom were designated by the teams' head coaches, while some were appointed by teammates and some are captains.
“We’re very happy that the Big 12 is following the medical advice that has been presented to them,” Texas senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “It’s been incredible to be involved in the process. I know we’re all extremely grateful that the Big 12 has included a group of players representing every school to give their input and feedback.”
Stadium capacities for the Big 12’s games will be determined by each member institution in accordance with local and/or state health ordinances, and after each school's administration consults with government officials.
Earlier this month, Texas released its COVID-19 safety guidelines for fans attending Longhorn football games this fall. At the time, Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said the athletic department was working to explore a 25-percent capacity model.
“That is very much a local issue. We do not have a policy at the conference level,” Bowlsby said. “Fans of CFB are a huge part of game day. I think we all agree that we won't have full stadiums. I don’t think we’re going to be anywhere near capacity, and it’s going to vary by locale.”
Bowlsby said each school also will have a home non-conference game, and those opponents will be required to adhere to the Big 12’s testing standards. It has been rumored that the Longhorns will host UTEP Sept. 12, by that is by no means a certainty at this time.
“It’s great that the Big 12 is continuing with fall sports right now,” Texas junior defensive back Caden Sterns said. “For us to get some sort of an answer, that helps ease our minds. We want to play, so to have that schedule, and to see the structure of what it’s going to look like, is relieving for us as players.”