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Most MVFC teams don’t have a shot

COVID-19 vaccination rates within the Missouri Valley Football Conference are lagging, and the price for an outbreak could be hefty.

Speaking during the league’s media day via zoom, MVFC Commissioner Patty Viverito noted the league is awaiting guidance from the NCAA, but is hopeful that protocol will dictate that teams that hit an 85 percent vaccination mark will be precluded from having to test and contact trace asymptomatic individuals.

However, no team in the league is at that mark yet, she said.

“Vaccinations are clearly the key to avoid canceling games due to the virus this season, and I think our teams need to step up and hit that 85 percent to ensure a successful season,” she added.

And unlike the spring season, during which postponements and no contests were commonplace, a canceled game in the fall season will “quite likely” result in a forfeit. Viverito said athletic directors and school presidents met in June, and they were leaning toward taking that direction and not rescheduling games this fall.

“We’re not going to be in the business of trying to reschedule games,” she said. “We don’t have space in the schedule to do that, and we also have a path to be able to play safely with vaccinated teams.”

A final decision on those protocols will come after the NCAA hands down guidance, she noted.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Viverito said when she met with coaches in June, “the rates were frightening, to be perfectly honest.”

But when she met with teams again a couple weeks ago?

“The numbers were vastly improved,” she said.

Youngstown State head coach Doug Phillips said in his media day interview the Penguins are at about 70 percent vaccinated.

Other notes from MVFC Media Day:

• For the first time in its program’s history, South Dakota State was chosen as the No. 1 team in the preseason poll. The Jackrabbits were the national runners-up in the spring, falling to Sam Houston State in the national title game. North Dakota State was picked second, while YSU was picked at No. 9.

• The Penguins dipped into the transfer portal for some roster additions during the offseason. YSU added Jorge Porterreal (Lehigh) and Bryce Oliver (Kentucky) at receiver; Alijah Curtis (Army) and Jayvon Thrift (West Virginia) at safety; Isaac James (Ball State) at defensive back; Ryan Johnson (Duquesne), Mike Morris (Kent State) and Nick Sabrin (Notre Dame College) along the offensive line; and J.T. Nganum (Glenville State) at defensive end. Curtis played quarterback at West Point and attended Canton McKinley High School.

• Despite being picked to finish fourth, Southern Illinois had the most players named to the Preseason All-MVFC Team with 13, including honorable mentions. South Dakota State had 12 players, Northern Iowa had 11, and North Dakota State had 10. Illinois State had the fewest with one player. Six Penguins received at least an honorable mention.

• The 24-team playoff could expand soon, according to Viverito. The commissioner said it’s likely the FCS could add two conferences as early as the 2022 season, and that as a result, the playoff field will need to grow in order to maintain a 50 percent at-large bracket.

• While conference realignment returns to the headlines, Viverito said the MVFC is “pretty satisfied” with its current membership, which just added North Dakota in 2020. However, she said the league wouldn’t “close the door on opportunities if they arose.”

Big 12 blames ESPN

(AP) — Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby accused ESPN of encouraging other conferences to pick apart the league so Texas and Oklahoma can move to the Southeastern Conference more quickly and without paying a massive buyout.

“I have absolute certainty that they (ESPN) have been involved in manipulating other conferences to go after our members,” Big 12 Commissioner Bowlsby told The Associated Press on Wednesday after sending a cease-and-desist letter to the network.

The letter addressed to ESPN executive Burke Magnus, President of Programming and Content, said the Big 12 had become aware the network had taken actions “to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN.”

ESPN, which owns the SEC Network, signed a $3 billion deal with the Southeastern Conference last year that will give the network the broadcast rights to all SEC sports starting in 2024.

The network also has a rights deal with the Big 12, though it shares those rights with Fox. Those deals expire in 2025.

The Big 12 demanded the network stop “all actions that may harm the Conference and its members and that it not communicate with the Big 12 Conference’s existing Members or any other NCAA Conference regarding the Big 12 Conference’s Members, possible conference realignment or potential financial incentives or outcomes related to possible conference realignment.”

ESPN responded in a one-sentence statement: “The claims in the letter have no merit.”

Texas and Oklahoma informed the Big 12 this week they would not be renewing an agreement that binds them to the league and its eight other members until 2025. The grant of media rights runs concurrently with the Big 12’s billion-dollar television contracts with ESPN and Fox.

On Tuesday, Texas and Oklahoma submitted a request to the SEC to join that league in 2025. To join the conference earlier than that could cost the schools tens of millions of dollars — unless the Big 12 were to fall apart because some of the other members left as well.

“ESPN is incentivizing other conferences to destabilize the Big 12,” Bowlsby added.

ESPN owns the rights to all Atlantic Coast Conference athletics and has an exclusive deal with the American Athletic Conference. The network also has current rights agreements with the Big Ten and Pac-12, though it shares those with Fox, too.

Bowlsby told AP that Texas and Oklahoma have been working on a move to the SEC for months, doing so while taking part in Big 12 strategy meetings where proprietary information was shared.

Bowlsby said he suspects ESPN was involved behind the scenes when Texas and Oklahoma were in discussions with the SEC, but he has no proof of that.

“This whole thing has been a complete articulation of deception,” he said.

SEC university presidents and chancellors are scheduled to meet tomorrow, but it is unclear if they will vote on extending invitations to conference to Oklahoma and Texas. SEC bylaws state 11 of the 14 members would need to vote in favor of inviting a new member, and it appears that won’t be a problem.

Texas A&M officials had voiced their displeasure last week with the possibility of rival Texas joining the SEC, but A&M’s board of regents on Wednesday directed University President Katherine Banks to vote in favor of the Longhorns and Sooners coming aboard.

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