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Despite MAC football’s return, uncertainty surrounds 2020 season


Greek philosopher Socrates apparently once said, “The only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing at all, for sure.”

That’s the situation the Mid-American Conference (MAC) is in right now, albeit to a lesser degree.

On Sept. 25, the league brought back football after initially deciding in August to postpone it to the spring. Now, it’s left with a lot of planning to do and a lot of uncertainty to deal with.

“We have a lot of work to do to get to the point where we’re playing,” Miami athletic director David Sayler said.

Even the schedule, besides the announced start date of Nov. 4, is up in the air.

Sayler initially predicted the official MAC calendar would be announced late last week. It still hasn’t been released.

The confirmed details: Miami will play six games, all against MAC opponents. The RedHawks will match up with all five teams in their East Division and schedule one contest against a West Division foe. Sayler predicted the sixth opponent would be the Ball State Cardinals to maintain the Redbird Rivalry.

Because Miami won’t play any out-of-conference programs, it loses games against Cincinnati, Army and Pittsburgh. 

“I have impeccably bad timing with sports, and there is no question that this year’s schedule being interrupted is probably one of the worst ones we could’ve had interrupted,” Sayler said. “I mean, having Cincinnati (and) Army at home, coming off a MAC Championship, seven home games — we were trending in a really positive direction with our fan support and everything else. COVID’s changed everything, and it’s changed everything for a lot of people, so no complaining. I get it. It is what it is.”

The Battle for the Victory Bell rivalry with the UC Bearcats is on pace to resume in 2021. Sayler said reconfiguring with Army is also a possibility. 

Besides the regularly scheduled games, Miami will have to consider COVID-forced cancellations. The virus has already caused two dozen cancellations through five weeks of college football, and it struck the NFL this week, too.

The league made it through three unscathed weeks before postponing two Sunday games.

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If an outbreak happens to Miami or its opponent, would the game be made up? When? 

Those questions will have to be answered on a case-by-case basis.

“A lot of the cancellations have not been too many positives,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “It’s been a position group got a positive, and their contact tracing knocked out the whole position group, and you can’t play a game without a quarterback or a linebacker or a defensive line. And you keep reading in these articles that, ‘Hey, it wasn’t a big outbreak.’ But one or two kids got it, and it took out a whole group of players which didn’t allow them to compete on Saturday.”

To hopefully avoid a large-scale infection, Miami will test its players for COVID-19 four times a week.

“Obviously, from an organizational standpoint and having protocols in place, it’s going to be like nothing we’ve ever been through,” Martin said. “I think, once the kids get out there, they’ll be on the field, they’ll forget about all that. That’ll be what’s so good about this. A couple-hour practice or a three-hour game, it’ll take them out of reality for a short period of time, which we all need at times, and just go back to enjoying what they do ...

“Me and [Sayler] talk a lot, and I don’t know what it is. It is what it is at the end of the day — funny, sad, whatever — the last time we had a conversation about anything but COVID is a long time coming. He said a couple weeks ago, ‘Man, I wish we could just talk about how we’re doing practice,’” he added.

Martin and Sayler should be back to talking about practice and x’s and o’s football in the next couple weeks.

Then again, the only thing known for sure…

Sayler said: “There’s still a lot left to be resolved in terms of how this works itself out over the next month within the entire sport of college football."