The start of the 2020 college football season is less than a month away, but every school in the Ohio Valley Conference is still facing (or is already dealing with) the possibility of having to make significant schedule adjustments.
Nine non-conference games — including three against the Southeastern Conference teams — have already been canceled.
Even more postponements seem likely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the country.
Tennessee State has been hit the hardest by far of any OVC team, so far.
The Tigers lost all three of their non-conference games. The Nashville-based school normally opens the season with bowl games against other HBCU's (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
In 2020, TSU was scheduled to play Southern University in the Detroit Football Classic on Sept. 5 and Jackson State at the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis (Sept. 12).
The Tigers also had to cancel a home game against Clark-Atlanta University set for Sept. 19.
“Anytime two storied HBCU programs such as Tennessee State University and Southern University are expected to play at a neutral site, there is always a high-level of anticipation and excitement. The fact that the 2020 Detroit Football Classic was canceled this year is very unfortunate," TSU Athletic Director Mikki Allen said in a statement. "However, I respect the decision that was made by Cheryl Parks Ajamu and the Ajamu Management group in relation to COVID-19.”
TSU officials stated in the same press release the school is exploring options to schedule alternative games.
Tennessee Tech has also lost two non-conference games.
The Golden Eagles were scheduled to travel to the University of Minnesota on Sept. 12, but the Big Ten announced this month it was moving to a conference-only schedule for all fall sports.
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has suspended all fall sports indefinitely, forcing the cancelation of a TTU home game against North Carolina Central on Sept. 19.
The Southeastern Conference reportedly has agreed to a 10-game conference-only schedule for this season.
That means a loss of big-revenue games for Eastern Illinois (Kentucky), SEMO (Ole Miss) and UT-Martin (Alabama).
Southeast Missouri State had already canceled its season opener with Dayton, which was scheduled for Sept. 3 in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
There could be many more, though.
The OVC has pushed back the start of fall sports — except football — to Sept. 17.
In a statement on July 22, the league said the revision of the season schedules did not include football at this time, "Due to existing contractual matters."
Those contracts have forced smaller conferences, like the OVC, to wait until the bigger leagues make their decisions.
OVC teams had six games scheduled against Power 5 conferences in 2020 — only two of which (EKU at West Virginia, Murray State at Louisville) have not been affected as of Thursday afternoon.
The fate of those games will be determined by the guidelines set up by the bigger conferences.
The ACC announced this week that all its teams will play a 10-game conference schedule in 2020, with one non-league match-up, which should be against an in-state opponent.
The BIG 12 could approve a similar move very soon.
The loss of those games would have a huge financial impact for OVC schools.
EKU is reportedly receiving more than $400,000 to play at West Virginia.
OVC schools also have four other games scheduled against FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams this year — Austin Peay at Cincinnati, UT-Martin at Memphis, Jacksonville State at Florida International and Murray State at Georgia State.
None of those conferences (American, Conference USA and the Sun Belt) have announced any plans for fall sports yet.
The remaining 12 non-conference games for OVC schools are scheduled to be against other FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) teams.
The OVC schools have five games against the Missouri Valley Conference (Indiana State at EIU, EIU at Illinois State, EKU at Youngstown State, SEMO at Southern Illinois and Southern Illinois at UT-Martin), three games against Southern Conference teams (Tennessee Tech at Samford, East Tennessee State at Austin Peay and Western Carolina at EKU) and two games against the Southland Conference (Central Arkansas vs. Austin Peay and SE Louisiana at Jacksonville State).
Jacksonville State is also set to play Northern Alabama from the Big South and Murray is scheduled for a home against against independent Tartleton State.
Several FCS conference have announced plans to cancel or postpone fall sports — the CAA, Ivy League, SWAC, MEAC and Patriot League — but none of those affect the schedules of OVC teams.