And then there were none.
Following announcements on back-to-back days, Kansas State football now has no non-conference games scheduled for the 2020 season. It started Friday, when the Missouri Valley Football Conference announced it would postpone its regular season until the spring. North Dakota, a member of the MVFC, was scheduled to travel to Manhattan to face K-State on Sept. 12. That announcement Friday was followed by another Saturday morning: The Mid-American Conference also would delay playing games until the spring. Once again, this cost K-State: MAC school Buffalo was slated to be K-State’s season opener Sept. 5.
K-State already had lost its final non-conference contest this fall when the SEC announced it would play a conference-only schedule in 2020; K-State was set to host Vanderbilt at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Sept. 19.
North Dakota athletics director Bill Chaves said Friday that 2020 “has been unprecedented” for everyone.
“We certainly support our conference’s decision to look for another way to provide competition opportunities for all of our football teams in the Valley,” Chaves said in a release. “For us at UND, we look forward to playing a unique spring season.”
UND coach Bubba Schweigert noted this year has been “a challenging time” for his football program.
“And especially for the players that have put forth great effort to prepare for the 2020 season,” Schweigert said. “We were looking forward to competing this fall in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. We understand the decision by the MVFC was difficult, yet a decision we support. We look forward to the day when we will continue competition on the field.”
MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher on Saturday announced the postponement of all fall sports activities. That included both regular season and championship contests.
“Personally, I feel for all of our student-athletes and staff who have been affected by this decision,” Buffalo athletics director Mark Alnutt said. “They have prepared very hard for their respective fall sport seasons, doing so by adhering to the very strict health and safety guidelines that we have in place. I’m so proud of how they represent UB and the Mid-American Conference.”
The flurry of announcements and postponements from the leagues of K-State’s non-conference foes — all stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has thrown the world (not just that of sports) into a state of constant upheaval — has decimated the Wildcats’ schedule.
The good news: K-State only needs to find one game, following the Big 12’s decision to go with a plus-one model: Nine conference games, plus one non-conference matchup.
The bad news: The options are beginning to grow slimmer.
It’s possible that North Dakota still could choose to play K-State this fall, with the remainder of its conference games taking place this spring. That isn’t likely, however, especially after the FCS — of which the Fighting Hawks are a member — elected to postpone its playoff until the spring. That came into play because the FCS now falls below the NCAA’s threshold for hosting a postseason. The mandate: at least 50% of eligible teams must participate in a regular season.
As of Saturday, more than 70 FCS schools are part of conferences that have announced they will not play this fall. There are 127 schools in the FCS, meaning more than 55% of eligible teams already have opted not to play during the fall semester.
With MAC teams off the table, K-State likely will look to fill its vacant slot with a school from one of the other Group of 5 leagues: the Mountain West, American Athletic, Conference USA and Sun Belt.
The Mountain West already has announced an eight-plus-two arrangement, with eight conference games and two non-conference tilts. The American and Sun Belt’s plans mirror each other: 12-game slates featuring eight league games and four non-conference contests. Conference USA has yet to reveal its format.
Between the Mountain West, American and Sun Belt conferences, there are 33 schools — so K-State, on paper, should have plenty of options.
Not that athletics director Gene Taylor is worried.
“Right now, so many teams need games out there,” Taylor said during an interview Thursday with 580 Talk Radio in Topeka. “Even if we don’t play a UND or Buffalo, there are teams. And we’ll get a non-conference opponent.”