No definitive answers as Illinois FCS programs begin fall camps
today at 11:11 am
As the calendar flips from July to August and teams open camps, in many ways Illinois’ four FCS programs are no closer to answers than when spring arrived and then turned into summer.
The two biggest questions remain: Will there be a season? If so, what does that season look like?
As of now, seven of the 13 FCS conferences are still trying to have a fall season. Two of those seven are the Missouri Valley Football Conference — which Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois are members — and the Ohio Valley Conference, which includes Eastern Illinois.
As Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor Craig Haley wrote recently, “Anxious feelings, though, overwhelm optimistic vibes. The pandemic has led to more than 1,800 games being canceled or postponed across all three NCAA divisions. Junior colleges won’t play until the spring semester, provided conditions are safe.”
The four Illinois FCS programs have already lost or will soon lose their games against FBS opponents that provide much needed money to the athletic departments as a whole. Those losses range from $450,000 to $500,000.
Week 0 games?
SIU recently announced it had secured a game with the University of Kansas, tentatively set for Aug. 29. Such games, approved by the NCAA, are labeled Week O contests. SIU would receive $300,000 after losing a $500,000 payday when its Wisconsin game was cancelled.
“We appreciate our administration finding another game and giving us this opportunity,” said SIU head coach Nick Hill in a release. “I was excited when I got the news. It gave us a shot in the arm that we needed, because it gives you something on the calendar to shoot for, plan for.”
Yet, that game — along with Western’s Sept. 19 contest at Oklahoma State — hinges on an upcoming FBS decision. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN on Wednesday the league will present four to five different scheduling plans to league administrators at the meeting Monday.
According to 247sports.com, “The leading candidate, at least in Bowlsby’s eyes, is a full 12-game schedule. He has long seen it as the first option, with anything below a 12-game schedule as a fallback for the conference.”
The Salukis began fall camp Friday and have four weeks to prepare for the contest. Players have been returning to campus in recent weeks through a gating procedure to screen for Covid-19. No players have tested positive to date. Players, coaches and staff will follow safety protocols throughout the return to football.
“I’m all on-board with getting back to football, as long as our doctors and health officials tell us it’s safe for us to play,” Hill said.
Meanwhile, Illinois State announced that two of its football players tested positive last week.
According to a story in The Pantagraph by Randy Reinhardt, ISU director of athletics Larry Lyons said, “We’re still planning as if we’re playing football this season. That’s always been our goal to plan to play. I don’t think there is any question everyone is looking forward to getting to the point where we can play football and play safely.
“I think it will be more clear in the next couple weeks. The NCAA Board of Governors has a meeting coming up. We need to be patient.”
Lyons also indicated that ISU is seeking a game to replace the cancelled Sept. 4 game at the University of Illinois. That game would have netted ISU $450,000. If a replacement game cannot be arranged, the Redbirds will open their season Sept. 12, hosting rival Eastern Illinois in the annual Mid-America Classic game.
EIU, meanwhile, is also waiting on a decision by its league’s presidents.
In last week’s media conference, OVC commissioner Beth DeBauche said that the league’s board of presidents is scheduled to meet virtually Wednesday and indicated that a decision may be forthcoming.
Eastern is scheduled to host Indiana State for its Sept. 3 season opener. The Panthers were scheduled to play Oct. 10 at the University of Kentucky of the SEC. However, the SEC presidents have reportedly adopted a plan for a 10-game, conference-only season. EIU was to receive a $500,000 guarantee for the game against Kentucky
Like Eastern, WIU is slated to kick off its season with a Sept. 3 home game. The Leathernecks would host North Alabama.
To date, however, Alabama is on a list of states identified as those that have a positive COVID-19 test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or have a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.
As Haley noted recently, “As July advances into August, the unpopular decision to shut down the FCS season feels inevitable.”