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PROVO — BYU’s football schedule for the 2020 season was shaken up in July.
The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday that the league will only play conference games in the fall 2020 season, pushing all nonconference games to a later date (if they’re scheduled at all) in football, cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.
“By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic,” the league said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.
BYU was scheduled to play Michigan State in the Cougars’ home opener Sept. 12, then travel to Minnesota two weeks later on Sept. 26.
"The Big Ten’s announcement today obviously has specific ramifications regarding the 2020 BYU football schedule," BYU spokesperson Duff Tittle said in a prepared statement from the university. "As we navigate the uncertainties of the current pandemic, BYU will continue to have discussions with other universities and our stakeholders to make the best possible decisions for our student-athletes and our athletic program."
The Cougars were contracted to receive a $300,000 payout from Minnesota for the Sept. 26 game, the same fee the Gophers would receive for a return trip to Provo in September 2025, according to public records in Minnesota.
Most standard college football contracts include a force majeure clause that could nullify the deals for inclement weather, disasters or other “act of God” incidents. It’s unclear if the clause would be triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, or if it would apply equally for the 2025 contracted game, as well.
The news could get worse for BYU’s schedule, as well.
"The Big Ten’s announcement today obviously has specific ramifications regarding the 2020 BYU football schedule. As we navigate the uncertainties of the current pandemic, BYU will continue to have discussions with other universities and our stakeholders to make the best possible decisions for our student-athletes and our athletic program."
–Statement from BYU Athletics
Multiple media outlets, including The Athletic, are reporting that the Pac-12 is likely to make a similar decision in the coming days.
BYU is scheduled to open the season Sept. 3 at archrival Utah, and will also face Pac-12 opponents Arizona State on Sept. 19 and Stanford on Nov. 28 to end the regular season.
The Cougars’ current multi-year contract with Utah includes the aforementioned force majeure clause, according to public documents available through the University of Utah.
The decision of both of those conferences to drop nonconference games will leave BYU with seven games on the schedule. That includes Missouri, though the SEC may follow suit of the other Power 5 conferences.
Without the Big Ten and Pac 12, BYU’s 2020 football schedules looks as follows:
- Oct. 2 vs. Utah State
- Oct. 10 vs. Missouri
- Oct. 16 vs. Houston
- Oct. 24 at Northern Illinois
- Nov. 6 at Boise State
- Nov. 14 vs. San Diego State
- Nov. 21 vs. North Alabama
Of course, that’s if the 2020 college football season is played, at all. The Ivy League became the first conference to announce it was suspended athletic competitions until at least the end of the fall semester.
Other conferences, specifically in the Football Championship Subdivision, are reportedly considering the same move. And as positive cases of COVID-19 increase across the nation — including in Utah — that option may become more likely for other leagues, as well.
“As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way, based on the best advice of medical experts, we are also prepared not to play in order to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate,” the Big Ten’s statement read.
Utah approved the resumption of the high school football season in the fall, but officials from the Utah High School Activities Association said Thursday that all plans are subject to change if cases of COVID-19 continue to rise to what medical officials have called "untenable" situations.