More and more, it looks like the ramp-up to what officials hope is a full college football season will begin in mid-July.
Yahoo Sports reported last week that the NCAA Division I football oversight committee was leaning toward a six-week preseason camp, about two weeks longer than the normal beginning to the season.
NCAA approval could come the middle of this month, according to Yahoo.
The COVID-19-forced cancellation of most spring football practices and on-campus workouts has forced significant adjustments in the schedule.
"Well, we've always known that we needed to get back somewhere around the middle of July," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said during a teleconference last Friday at the end of virtual conference spring meetings. "I think we probably have to get started with football activities and football-specific training by sometime around the middle of July."
He noted that conferences and the American Football Coaches Association had been looking closely at a six-week model.
"It may get shoved around a little bit," Bowlsby said, "but I think it's pretty close to what we'll end up with."
Players are already returning to campus soon. Among other conferences, the SEC has allowed a return of football players for voluntary workouts beginning June 8. The Big 12 can return June 15.
During an interview Monday with Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd, Texas coach Tom Herman detailed what his players will face when they return to campus.
"The week prior to that on June 8, our guys will be given a battery of tests with blood work and COVID-19 tests," Herman said. "To expect them to be as in shape on June 15 as maybe they would have been in years past, I don't think anybody expects that. But I do know that for 100 years, college football found a way to get played with its participants literally leaving and going home for two to three months during the summer time."
Herman expects physical conditioning to lag recent years when players return, saying, "I don't think it will be nearly as good as it was as in years past."
Just because the college football power brokers seem to be on the verge on agreeing for what will come doesn't mean there aren't countless problems to solve.
The Big 12 has a working group of five athletic directors exploring all the major issues involved with a return and possible COVID-19 recurrence during the season. Bowlsby said "scenario planning" had to be done now to be for "real-time" decisions later.
"There are additional things they're working on, like how do you safeguard the game officials?" Bowlsby said. "How do you make sure they're properly tested and known to be negative before they're coming in contact with players? How do you take care of the sideline personnel and essential game management people?
"Do you allow bands on the field? On the road games, do you allow pep bands to come, or are we going to embargo that for a period of time?
Do cheerleaders have to have masks on? Does everybody on the sideline have been wearing protective gear. Those kinds of things are the things this group of athletic directors is working on."
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