SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Missouri Valley Football Conference is moving conference games to the Spring, the MVFC announced Friday.
“In its unwavering commitment to providing meaningful and safe competitive opportunities for the Conference’s student-athletes, the MVFC will play a full 8-game spring league schedule with the expectation to culminate the season with the FCS Playoffs,” the conference said in a press release Friday night.
“Without question the most important part of our decision-making process was listening to our student-athletes and hearing their feelings,” stated Jim Tressel, chair of the MVFC Presidents Council and President at Youngstown State University. “What we clearly heard was that they want to play this year for a chance to participate in the FCS Playoffs. It’s great to know that they believe we are taking all the steps necessary to keep them safe in the process. All 11 MVFC teams weighed in with their positions on the options we considered, and all thoughts and concerns guided our thinking.”
“Now that we have some direction from the conference, it gives us an opportunity to start planning how we want to handle our non-conference opportunities this fall,” Missouri State Director of Athletics Kyle Moats said in response to the decision. “We look forward to competing within our conference for NCAA Championship bids in the spring. The health and safety of our student-athletes remains our top priority as we begin evaluating those short-term and long-term schedules.”
With the move, schools are still able to play non-conference action in the Fall if they choose to.
Moats said Missouri State will still want to play non-conference opponents, including Oklahoma and Tarleton State in the Fall.
“We still would be able to do independently because the NCAA doesn’t oversee that. They only oversee the championship,” Moats said. “The Valley can certainly make a recommendation, but we could do what we need to do and play non-conference.”
In addition to those two road non-conference games, Moats says he will want a third Fall game at home.
That opponent would have been Montana, but the Big Sky Conference also announced Friday it was moving conference to the Spring and Moats confirmed the game was cancelled.
When asked whether playing football in the Fall – even when the conference isn’t willing to – sends a bad message, Moats said he feels confident he could still maintain the health and safety of his players thanks to the current state of the area.
“I wouldn’t classify that for money,” Moats said. “I would classify that as we’re doing everything possible from a health and safety standpoint. We’re doing exactly what Oklahoma is doing, and Oklahoma and the Big 12 are playing this Fall. We’re doing the same type of testing. Therefore I feel comfortable in our situation. I realize we’d be playing down in Oklahoma and down in Texas, but our third game is here in Springfield if we had another game. This is a different area geographically. We are different all over the country. The Dakotas are different than Illinois right now. Illinois is not in very good shape. We’ve talked a lot about that. We’ve always said if somebody can do it and feel like the health and safety of that area can do it, then we’ll let that group do it. We’re not going to hold everybody back because every geographic location is in a different situation.”
In addition to wanting a third non-conference at home however, Moats is hoping to have fans at that game.
At the moment, that would come with a 50 percent attendance cap at Plaster Stadium, which would be 8,750 fans maximum.
Last year, the Bears only exceeded that mark once when they played Kennesaw State in the home opener in front of 11,421 fans.
“Now, things change and if it gets worse or gets better that might fluctuate,” Moats said. “But I think 50 percent is kind of what we have looked at and makes sense.”
The obvious concern with adding fans is the possible spreading of the COVID-19 virus.
As of now, Moats said 55 Missouri State athletes have tested positive for the virus out of the 556 who have been tested since the process began.
“I think we’ve done pretty good in terms of where we’re at,” he said. “I feel like we’re doing a good job of testing.”