Game on: Mountain West reverses course and will play football this fall

Toa Taua
Toa Taua runs the ball during Nevada's game against UNLV last season. (Byrne Photo/Nevada athletics)

The Mountain West will play football this fall, after all.

In a reversal of course, the conference announced Thursday it will play a truncated eight-game season starting Oct. 24 rather than move forward with its original plan of playing in the spring. The MW announced Aug. 10 it would delay all fall sports to the spring as a result of COVID-19. But after the Big Ten and Pac-12 changed their minds, the MW also will follow suit, meaning nine of the 10 FBS conferences will play football in the fall. The only conference not committed to doing so is the MAC, the first league to shift its season to the spring.

The MW originally pushed back the start of its fall season until at least the weekend of Sept. 26 as part of a proposed 10-game schedule. But five days later, the conference's Board of Directors voted to not play in the fall at all. Almost seven weeks later, the MW presidents changed course again and will try to squeeze in a fall season with minimal margin for error.

The MW said in an email to media more details on the season will be released Friday.

Starting the season Oct. 24 will give teams a month to prepare for games. The season will include eight games in eight weeks and culminate with a MW championship game Dec. 19, which mirrors the schedule laid out by the Big Ten earlier this month. That timeline would allow for the MW's season to be completed in time for the New Year's Six Bowl selections.

Nevada coach Jay Norvell has pushed to play this fall if it could be done safely. The Wolf Pack's fourth-year coach believes he has a team capable of winning the school's first football championship since moving to the MW in 2012.

"Our sport has incredibly competitive people who are used to competing this time of the year, and we sacrifice a lot all year long so we can compete for 12 Saturdays in the fall," Norvell said on Wolf Pack All Access earlier this month. "To have that taken away from you, it's almost like losing a piece of yourself. That's kind of what it feels like. People say, 'Oh, boy it must be tough. I really know how you feel.' I say, 'You really don't know how we feel.' I feel like somebody has taken a year of my life away from me. We don't really understand the mental toll it's taken on our players."

While Nevada won't get 12 games, it will get eight, although whether all eight of those will actually be played remains to-be-determined. Colleges across the nation have struggled with COVID-19 outbreaks with scores of games either being postponed or canceled. Four games this week have been postponed, including Notre Dame's contest with Wake Forest. Five games last week were postponed or canceled. Fifteen games have been postponed or canceled through the first four weeks of the season.

But conferences have pushed forward with the SEC beginning games this weekend and the Big Ten, Pac-12 and MW soon to join them.

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