Bowlsby: Big 12 status in mid-July to dictate start

The Big 12 conference doesn’t have a date yet for its sports to resume, but commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Tuesday the league needs to be “up and running” by mid-July if the college football season is going to start on time.

“If we’re not, we’re looking at probably having to delay the season a little bit,” he told ESPN, “but it’s too early to know if we’re going to be able to make that or not.”

College football is tentatively scheduled to start on Aug. 29, and while there is still no definitive timetable for college sports to return, the May 31 moratorium that was imposed in March at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic is quickly expiring.

Multiple sources have told ESPN that the SEC athletic directors are meeting with health officials on Thursday, and will then make a recommendation to the league’s university presidents and chancellors about whether to permit student-athletes to return to campus as soon as June 1 for voluntary workouts. The SEC presidents and chancellors are expected to meet and make a decision on Friday.

Bowlsby said the Big 12 conference will have meetings next week for similar conversations, as their deadline is also May 31. He said it’s up to health experts to determine when it’s safe for the student-athletes to return.

“They have to have testing and assurances that systems are in place to deal with positive tests, treat people after a positive test, triage, hospital-level disinfectant in all of the activity spaces,” he said. “There’s just a lot of layers of systems that have to be put in place.”

When asked about the potential for a competitive advantage should the SEC allow athletes to return earlier, Bowlsby said the conference commissioners are in constant communication with the hopes of similar timelines.

“That’s why we work together is to try and avoid those things, but there’s a range of outcomes that are probably satisfactory and that allows some local discretion,” Bowlsby said, “but to the extent we can, we’ll try and do things similarly, but it doesn’t have to be identical.”

Last week, Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley said any talk of bringing players back to campus in a matter of weeks is too soon.

“All the talk about these schools wanting to bring players back on June 1 is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard,” Riley said in a Zoom chat with reporters. “We’ve got to be patient. We have one good shot at it.”