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BYU Plans To Meet COVID-19 Testing Set By Power Five Conferences In 2020 Season

The BYU Spirit Squad waves their team flags after running out before the rivalry game between BYU and Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Colter Peterson, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – Testing has been a major sticking point in the College Football’s return to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Will athletic departments be able to afford the testing and protocols necessary to keep student-athletes during these unprecedented times?

The NCAA released new guidelines last week that football student-athletes have to receive COVID-19 tests within 72 hours of every game played. This also includes testing for student-athletes in Olympic sports as well. Since the NCAA doesn’t run the championship for FBS football, Power 5 conferences, or as the NCAA calls them, “Autonomous conferences” are setting their own COVID-19 testing protocols for the upcoming season.

That’s one of the main reasons the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences moved to Conference-Only schedules is to control testing protocols in-house.

Will BYU, an Independent program, outside the Power 5 conference structure be able to make COVID-19 testing work for the upcoming football season?

How BYU will approach COVID-19 testing for football

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed protocols and COVID-19 testing for BYU football student-athletes on BYUtv’s BYU Sports Nation in a “State of the Program” address.

“We are sure and certain that when we play those P5 schools that we’ll have to play and live up to that [standard of testing], which we’d want to do. We want to play to the highest standards that we could,” Holmoe said to BYUtv. “Now if we’re playing other conferences that may not be living up or playing up to those standards of testing, it may be a different story. We would imagine that as we get close and these games are locked in across the board that we’d work out that protocol.”

COVID-19 testing protocols set by the NCAA

For smaller programs outside the Power 5 conferences, the NCAA guidelines appear to be a financial hurdle that might be too much to handle. Dixie State head football coach Paul Peterson, who’s leading Dixie into their first year as an FCS program, wrote on social media, “COVID tests are going to be expensive, sure Power 5’s will be fine but what about us little guys?”

BYU has one game in 2020 against a team from the FCS ranks and that is North Alabama who is scheduled to travel to Provo on November 21st.

Holmoe was asked about how realistic executing the NCAA’s 72-hour testing guidelines is going to be for college athletics.

“It’s pretty stringent the guidelines, I don’t even know if they’re guidelines, I’d say standards that the NCAA put out for all of their teams,” Holmoe said. “A lot of people don’t realize that NCAA football and CFP (College Football Playoff) is complicated. But NCAA sent out these standards for all their championships and they don’t run the football championships, at least at the FBS level. They do for the FCS level. So, those levels are high, which they should be. And what you’re seeing is some solid conferences are saying we can’t live to those [standards] and we’re gonna have to delay until the spring. And in the next few days and weeks to come, you’re going to see more conferences make decisions on that and we’ll have to react to how those conference decisions go.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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