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MW commissioner Craig Thompson: 'No college athletics until campuses are open'

Craig Thompson
Craig Thompson will help guide the Mountain West through a pandemic. (YouTube)

In part one of Craig Thompson's interview with the Mountain West Network, the conference's commissioner said if there is no college football in 2020, it's unlikely there will be other sports on campus. In part two of his interview, which was released Tuesday, he made some other strong statements on college athletics' current landscape.

Among the topics discussed was whether it would be possible to play in 2020-21 if campuses were not fully opened.

"Unless they're in full mode with dormitories and housing and all of the other facilities are open, we won't have college athletics," Thompson said. "We will not have college athletics until the campuses are open."

The decision to open campuses, Thompson said, would fall on a number of people, including medical professionals; federal, state and local governments; and university presidents, among others.

"It's going to take the combination of several sources to make the determination: 'Is it safe to reopen and get 30,000 students co-mingling on a campus?'" Thompson said.

Complicating things in the Mountain West is the fact conference members sit in eight different states, each of which could have a different plan for reopening the economy and their institutions of higher learning. Not all of those states will necessarily open at the same time.

"You can understand the clamor if certain coaches say, 'Well, they can practice in seven of the Mountain West states but we can't in the eighth, so none of you can practice util we can practice and open up our campus,'" Thompson said. "There will be some very heavy questions we'll have to answer at some point."

Thompson was asked if he thinks college athletics in the fall will be impacted.

"I think it will be impacted," Thompson said. "It's interesting, the debate in football. Some people seem to reason that 6 to 7 weeks is the suggested time it would take for them to get ready to resume. Remember, a lot of these football players haven't been on campus, haven't been in personal contact with their coach. Certainly virtual contact and workouts. Those people, it's going to take a while to condition and to put in the process of normal coaching. We're hearing anywhere from 6 to 7 weeks, 8 weeks minimal. Others are saying they can get it done in 4 weeks. They seem to be in the minority."

Thompson said if you use an 8-week practice period to get read for the season and use the traditional opening of the year on Labor Day weekend, a decision on whether to start the ramping up process on a season would have to be made in early July, which is a little more than 2 months away. Thompson said a number of contingency plans have been discussed if it is impossible to meet that deadline.

"There's conversations about October, conversations about spring football in 2021, which would coincide with basketball season," Thompson said. "Then you get into the logistics about whether you can play a football game in March in Colorado. Lastly, how does it blend into the academic calendar and how does it do against a number of professional sports playing at the same time?"

With the MW signing a new media rights deal with CBS and Fox that starts next season, Thompson was asked whether that deal could be negatively impacted. MW teams are expected to make three times what it did under its previous contract, which paid non-Boise State schools $1.1 million annually.

"With the CBS and Fox new media contracts, we're anticipating a three-fold increase over past rights fees," Thompson said. "If we don't fulfill and provide them with a 12-week schedule and games over the course of nearly four months, there will be an impact. It's just too early to say, 'Are we going to play 12 games or not?'"

Here is Thompson's full interview with Jesse Kurtz.

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