The Mountain West Conference announced late Thursday that league presidents had voted to play football this fall after previously postponing the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference released details of the plan Friday morning and, by Friday afternoon, all 10 FBS conferences had announced plans to play in the fall when the MAC, the first league to postpone its season, became the final one to announce a return.
The Pac-12, MWC and MAC all announced a return within a space of just more than 24 hours. The ACC, Big 12, American, Sun Belt and BYU, among others, have already started playing and the SEC is set to kick off its conference-only schedule this weekend.
The Mountain West, which is home to Utah State, plans to play eight games beginning Oct. 24 with a conference championship game slated for Dec. 19.
“We are excited that our team has the opportunity to compete and play this fall,” Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said in a statement. “There is much work to do and lost time to make up, so we are already hard at work preparing to put the best product out on the field.”
The conference included details of an agreement for rapid COVID-19 testing with a diagnostic company and said players and coaches will be tested three times per week. A similar agreement in the Pac-12 spurred action from conference presidents to resume football.
“This is a great opportunity to get our student-athletes back on the field of competition in a cautious and regulated fashion,” MW Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “The rapid testing element was critical for us to provide an effective solution for our athletes, coaches, officials and event staff.”
The MWC says a player who tests positive on a rapid test will then be tested with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result. The full impacts of positive tests are yet to be determined.
“The MW is in the process of finalizing thresholds for competition interruption, monitoring test results, and other health and safety protocols that are consistent with NCAA resocialization guidelines,” the conference said in a press release.
The Mountain West said attendance and fan capacities will be determined by each school in accordance with relevant local health guidelines. Utah State athletic director John Hartwell said the Aggies plan to invite a yet-to-be-determined number of fans to home games.
The MAC’s announcement Friday afternoon was for a six-game conference schedule.
The FCS subdivision, where Weber State plays in the Big Sky Conference, will now have spring 2021 to itself. Most FCS conferences are on track to play eight-game conference schedules from mid-February to mid-April before a 16-team playoff.
BYU could pick up another football game with the Mountain West’s decision. Thompson said Friday there was “the potential” that Boise State and BYU could reinstitute their previously scheduled game for this season. Though many conferences are sticking to only league games, Air Force had already been approved to play Army and Navy before the MW’s announcement this week.
BYU is 1-0 after a 55-3 win over Navy on Sept. 7. Their second game, a Sept. 19 game at Army, was postponed after positive tests on BYU’s roster. The Cougars are scheduled to play their second game late Saturday night, hosting Troy.