LEBANON, Tenn. -- Mid-South Conference Commissioner Eric Ward announced today that the conference will revise its football schedule for the upcoming 2020 season following return to play guidelines established by the NAIA.
NAIA President Jim Carr’s announcement on June 4 regarding return to play guidelines for all fall sports has necessitated a schedule adjustment for all Mid-South Conference football teams. As recommended by the conference Football Oversight Committee and approved by the football athletic directors and head coaches, the conference schedule will officially begin on September 12 with all 22 teams in action.
“The Mid-South Conference football athletic directors and head coaches have vetted and approved a revised 2020 conference football schedule,” Ward said. “With the lingering uncertainty regarding many of the details surrounding a return to play in the fall, our conference leadership, in accordance with the NAIA guidelines, felt it would be prudent to move forward with a contingency plan for football, the sport with the largest student-athlete participation and the most procedural complexities from the start of preseason practice thru completion of the regular season schedule. Our schools will face a number of challenges this fall, and the revised football schedule will make some of those challenges easier for our members to address.”
Ward, along with the MSC Football Oversight Committee -- comprised of two athletic directors from each of the three conference divisions -- sought a plan that would fit within the NAIA guidelines, but most importantly consider the well-being of the student-athletes while also being mindful of the potential fiscal challenges of Mid-South Conference institutions in the wake of COVID-19.
“The reasons this change in scheduling was deemed necessary are primarily two-fold,” Ward said. “First and foremost, we are committed to and 100% focused on the safety, health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff. Pushing the conference start date back to September 12 gives our coaches more time to get student-athletes acclimated and assess and focus on their appropriate physical conditioning after such a long, unprecedented period with no supervised work-outs. A later start will also help accommodate a later-than-usual initial reporting date for football due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the preparations that our campuses are making in anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall.
“The second reason for the scheduling change was out of concern for the fiscal health of our member institutions,” Ward added. “The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to place financial pressures on our members, whether due to increased costs and/or restricted revenues as a result of adherence to state and local guidelines for appropriate testing and prevention of the spread of the virus on their campuses and in their local communities. The revised schedule dramatically reduces travel for all teams, which means fewer hours riding on buses, fewer nights in hotels, and fewer meals in restaurants. Conference leadership felt it was important that we anticipate some sort of alteration or interruption in these and possibly other facets of team travel, particularly when considering the various states where our schools are located and the different responses and guidelines within each.”
Following multiple web-conferencing discussions, Ward presented the committee’s proposal to all football-participating athletic directors and coaches. A vote of approval from the athletic directors soon followed.
Cumberland is slated to open up the season on September 12 versus in-state rival Bethel University. The Phoenix will then travel to Campbellsville on September 19. These two games will be non-conference games and will not count in the divisional standings.
The Phoenix will then travel to Williamsburg, Ky. to take on the University of the Cumberlands on September 26 before hosting three straight conference games. Georgetown College will come to Lebanon on October 3 followed by Thomas More University on October 10. The Blue Raiders from Lindsey Wilson will be in town for the final game of the home set on October 17.
The squad will travel to Pikeville, Ky. to play the University of Pikeville on October 24 before wrapping up the season against Bethel and Campbellsville for the second time. Bethel will be on the road on October 31 and the final regular-season game will be at home against Campbellsville on November 7.