Big 12 schools give sports fans hope for a return to normalcy in the fall

All 10 members of the Big 12 athletic conference are planning to return to campus this fall.

“We flattened the curve, hospitals aren’t overloaded. It would simply not feel right to have college football in the spring," one student told Campus Reform.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, situations got drastic for the sports world. 

The NBA swiftly postponed its season, while the NCAA canceled its iconic “March Madness” tournament for 2020. Given the ongoing duration of the pandemic, the immediate future of sports seemed dire for fans. However, thanks to some recent announcements, not all hope is lost for college sports in the near future. 

According to The Oklahoman, all 10 member schools of the collegiate Big 12 athletic conference have said that they plan to have students on campus for the upcoming fall semester, providing optimism toward a 2020 NCAA football season. 

While this news may come as a relief for fans and athletes of college football, it does not guarantee that the season will start on regular time, or that fans would be allowed to access stadiums to attend. The season is scheduled to begin August 29, and with Big 12 play slated to start the week after, there is uncertainty remaining within athletic programs. 

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Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told The Oklahoman that plans to start the football program are being reviewed with contingency options available, such as a shortened or delayed season, or moving games to be played next spring. Other Big 12 schools, such as Iowa State or Kansas, have also expressed uncertain but optimistic plans for football this fall. 

All Big 12 schools ultimately fall under the authority of the NCAA, which has released specific guidelines regarding the resocialization of college sports during the pandemic. The NCAA guidelines are influenced by recommendations provided by the federal government under the official Opening Up America Again guidelines. In order for resocialization to start, state and local governments should wait until there is a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses reported over a 14-day period, and hospitals are not overcrowded to provide sufficient care. 

Once that happens, the NCAA suggests that universities must have a plan in place for resocialization of students before athletic competition can begin. Resocialization of athletics will be implemented in phases, starting with a first phase that still continues to encourage physical distancing. In phase two, non-essential travel may resume, and only vulnerable individuals are recommended to shelter-in-place. If phase one and two are implemented without a rebound in coronavirus cases, phase three can begin. In phase three, congregations and practices are set to resume, with gyms and facilities being open for athletic use.

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Students at Big 12 institutions are often very supportive of their athletic programs and are excited, but cautious about the update. 

Campus Reform spoke with Clayton Smith, a freshman studying marketing at Iowa State, who feels uncertain about the news: “I love Iowa State football; I’ve been a fan of the Cyclones for years,” he said.

“I make sure to attend all the sporting events I can, and I would really love to be back where I belong. I’ve been safe at home during this quarantine, but I guarantee you I don’t want to have to go through this again. So, as a fan, if I had to wait another year for Cyclone sports, I would understand why,” Smith added.

Brock Wuebker, an agriculture student also at Iowa State, feels more confident in the move. 

“It’s time we go back to normalcy, really,” Wuebker told Campus Reform. “We flattened the curve, hospitals aren’t overloaded. It would simply not feel right to have college football in the spring; I think it loses its traditional value. The atmosphere of college football is what makes it great, and you cannot have that without fans and fall weather. Not going to lie, I’m expecting a ton of team-themed facemasks to be worn at games next fall, but it will be worth it for the fans and the players.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter:@JackBryson34