MAC Postpones Football Season Amid COVID-19; Intends to Play in Spring

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2020

FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher speaks to the mediain Cleveland. Aiming to recruit and engage more competitive video gamers, a dozen schools in the Mid-American Conference are creating a standalone esports conference to offer structured competition without the extensive rules that govern intercollegiate athletics. “There’s boatloads of kids out there that want to do this – well, they’re doing it already,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “And so to have some level of organization that provides for regular competitive opportunities that are well-run, on a regular basis, we think will give our schools a leg up in terms of attracting these students to their campuses.” (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Mid-American Conference has postponed fall sports for the 2020 season, the conference announced Saturday. 

Brett McMurphy of Stadium first reported the news and noted the conference will attempt to reschedule its football slate in the spring.

The 12-team MAC was attempting to finalize plans for the 2020 season when Northern Illinois president Lisa Freeman informed the conference her school was going to opt out of the campaign because of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, per McMurphy.

"The league didn't like the look of NIU going out on their own and not playing," a source told Stadium.

A vote held Saturday confirmed the decision to cancel football in the fall.

Buffalo (+200) was listed as the MAC championship favorite heading into 2020, per Caesars Palace. The Bulls were followed by Central Michigan (+325), Ohio (+500), Western Michigan (+650) and Toledo (+700) in what was shaping up as a hotly contested title race.

MAC games, which have often been showcased on the ESPN networks and the CBS Sports Network on weeknights in recent years, received the moniker "MACtion" because of the frequent close, high-scoring contests.

The pandemic's financial impact has been substantial. Along with the initial cancellation of the upcoming season, MAC teams lost a combined $10.5 million in payments they were scheduled to receive before the Power Five conferences called off most of their nonconference games, per McMurphy.

The MAC's vote came after the NCAA announced Wednesday conferences have until Aug. 21 to make a final decision about whether to compete in the fall. Any sport that has more than 50 percent of eligible teams opt out won't hold a national championship.

A Power Five athletic director told McMurphy the larger conferences are weighing the same factors as their smaller-conference counterparts.

"Everyone understands the financial implications without a football season, but will the other conference presidents want to take the chance of something happening on campus—[like] a major COVID outbreak that shuts down the football program and the campus? That would be a major PR hit and then there's the liability concerns."

One aspect of the NCAA's Wednesday announcement was banning liability waivers related to COVID-19.

Moving the season to spring would create logistical problems, with the 2021 NFL draft scheduled to begin April 29.