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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Mid-South Conference Commissioner Eric Ward announced today the conference will revise its football schedule for the upcoming 2020 season following return to play …
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Mid-South Conference Commissioner Eric Ward announced today the conference will revise its football schedule for the upcoming 2020 season following return to play guidelines established by the NAIA.
NAIA President Jim Carr’s announcement on June 4 regarding return to play guidelines for all fall sports has necessitated a schedule adjustment for all Mid-South Conference football teams. As recommended by the conference Football Oversight Committee and approved by the football athletic directors and head coaches, the conference schedule will officially begin on September 12 with all 22 teams in action.
“The Mid-South Conference football athletic directors and head coaches have vetted and approved a revised 2020 conference football schedule,” Ward said. “With the lingering uncertainty regarding many of the details surrounding a return to play in the fall, our conference leadership, in accordance with the NAIA guidelines, felt it would be prudent to move forward with a contingency plan for football, the sport with the largest student-athlete participation and the most procedural complexities from the start of preseason practice thru completion of the regular season schedule. Our schools will face a number of challenges this fall, and the revised football schedule will make some of those challenges easier for our members to address.”
Ward, along with the MSC Football Oversight Committee -- comprised of two athletic directors from each of the three conference divisions -- sought a plan that would fit within the NAIA guidelines, but most importantly consider the well-being of the student-athletes while also being mindful of the potential fiscal challenges of Mid-South Conference institutions in the wake of COVID-19.
“The reasons this change in scheduling was deemed necessary are primarily two-fold,” Ward said. “First and foremost, we are committed to and 100% focused on the safety, health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff. Pushing the conference start date back to September 12 gives our coaches more time to get student-athletes acclimated and assess and focus on their appropriate physical conditioning after such a long, unprecedented period with no supervised work-outs. A later start will also help accommodate a later-than-usual initial reporting date for football due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the preparations that our campuses are making in anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall.
“The second reason for the scheduling change was out of concern for the fiscal health of our member institutions,” Ward added. “The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to place financial pressures on our members, whether due to increased costs and/or restricted revenues as a result of adherence to state and local guidelines for appropriate testing and prevention of the spread of the virus on their campuses and in their local communities. The revised schedule dramatically reduces travel for all teams, which means fewer hours riding on buses, fewer nights in hotels, and fewer meals in restaurants. Conference leadership felt it was important that we anticipate some sort of alteration or interruption in these and possibly other facets of team travel, particularly when considering the various states where our schools are located and the different responses and guidelines within each.”
Following multiple web-conferencing discussions, Ward presented the committee’s proposal to all football-participating athletic directors and coaches. A vote of approval from the athletic directors soon followed.
Teams will play primarily within their divisions in 2020, including playing some opponents in a home-and-home series. Only one of the games -- as determined by the conference -- will be considered a divisional game and count towards the divisional standings.
Ward said he is incredibly proud of how everyone worked together to find a solution under difficult circumstances.
“I want to especially thank our athletic directors and head football coaches for their leadership and spirit of cooperation through this process,” Ward said. “Making decisions in a crisis situation with 22 member-institutions can be like trying to turn a battleship in a bathtub. Instead we found that our athletic directors and coaches were all eager and willing to work together to find a solution to the challenges that we all will face in getting our teams back on the field and keeping them on the field this fall.”
Bethel Associate Athletic Director Brad Chappell offered his thoughts. “I’m really excited about this fall football season, not because of our abbreviated spring sports schedules but it is also more of a regional schedule. It will allow our team and our fans to make fewer overnight trips. At the same time, it is a very challenging schedule, which will afford us the opportunity to strengthen our team and prepare for a deep playoff run. I know coach Jasper and his staff will have our football team ready to go when the time comes.”
Bethel Head Coach Michael Jasper said, “In light of the COVID -19 situation the Mid-South Conference has opted to revise our 2020 schedule. I am excited to even have this opportunity with all the uncertainty that has been surrounding our season. Rather than playing our Sun and Appalachian division opponents we will play both Cumberland (TN) and Lindsey Wilson twice respectively. September 12th we face Cumberland in Lebanon, Tennessee and the following week we will welcome Lindsey Wilson here in McKenzie, Tennessee. Neither of which will count towards the division title. This is a step towards sports returning this fall and I am fired up. I can’t wait to have our guys back on campus July 31st and myself and the athletic training staff are working to ensure our student-athletes remain safe upon their arrival.”
2020 Bethel Wildcat Schedule: 9/12 @ Cumberland University -6 p.m.; 9/19 Lindsey Wilson -1:30 p.m.; 9/26 Pikeville - 1:30 p.m. *; 10/3 @ Thomas More-12:30 p.m. *; 10/10 @ Campbellsville -6 p.m. *; 10/17 Cumberlands– 5 p.m. (Homecoming) *; 10/24 @ Georgetown -12:30 p.m. *; 10/31 Cumberland University – 5 p.m. *; 11/7 @ Lindsey Wilson – 1:30 p.m. *