Missouri Western

Missouri Western head coach Matt Williamson signals on the sideline against Northwest Missouri State at Spratt Stadium.

Following recent revelations and more college athletics returning to play, momentum is building toward multiple football teams in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association fielding games on the gridiron this fall.

According to a source close to the situation, multiple MIAA teams are actively finalizing plans to return to the field for games this fall outside of the MIAA’s sanctioned season.

The motion comes following a 10-2 vote by the conference’s athletic directors on Thursday to go forward with competition this fall, according to multiple sources. That vote didn’t pass approval from the league’s presidents, resulting in a 5-5 vote with two of the league’s presidents abstaining, as reported by the Topeka Capital Journal.

Pittsburg State officially became the first team from the MIAA to announce a fall football game and will play Stephen F. Austin from the FCS on Nov. 14.

Pitt officials said the plan is for five non-conference games, including two in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Sources close to the situation say the move by multiple schools to play competition, which is still being discussed, has been spearheaded by Missouri Western.

The university couldn’t confirm ongoing talks to News-Press NOW, but sources close to the situation say they are “confident football will be played at Missouri Western this fall and the athletic department is pursuing all options to make that happen.”

A source close to Northwest Missouri State said the university is also keeping options open to play a schedule this fall, though more work remains to be done in acquiring coronavirus tests, finding opponents and determining further plans on the operation of a schedule. The cost of testing guidelines set forth by the NCAA wasn’t feasible for most institutions, though new rapid tests could significantly drop costs and help toward safely playing.

The source said Northwest is looking at all options for potentially playing football but doesn’t want to play “at the detriment of winter and spring student-athletes” following the cancelation of their 2020 seasons and championships, which included the men’s basketball tournament for the top-ranked Bearcats.

While pieces continue to move and it’s unclear how many programs will participate, a fall slate that includes anywhere from possibly three to five games could include other MIAA teams, Division II programs outside the conference, and even programs at the FCS level. Below the FCS level select NAIA conferences, including the Heart of America, are the only leagues currently playing. There are 15 FCS teams playing games this fall outside of the level’s normal season.

The timing of a possible schedule is still to be determined. Missouri Western has been practicing since Aug. 28, while Northwest is currently still in its strength and conditioning portion of the offseason and will practice Sept. 28. Safe preparation for a season would likely take multiple weeks, or up to a month, from the time of startup.

The NCAA recently approved eligibility relief to fall athletes for the 2020-21 year as long as the total games played doesn’t exceed the maximum number of competitions allowed. The NCAA reduced the maximum number of regular season football games from 11 to 10 for this academic year, though the MIAA is likely to play a further reduced season if a season resumes early in 2021 .

The move comes just more than a month after the MIAA announced Aug. 14 that fall sports competition would be suspended until Jan. 1, 2021. The move came after NCAA Division II announced its seven fall championships would be canceled outright. The MIAA was among the last league’s to pull the plug on a 2020 season, releasing three different schedules for fall athletics. Those plans included the initial season, a reduced season following NCAA relief guidelines and another schedule that featured a postponed start to late Sept. and the removal of the first three weeks of play.

The MIAA is also set to meet at the end of this month to decide on action for winter sports competition, which a source within the conference said is still on.

There are currently seven Division I conferences slated to play this fall following the Big Ten’s reversal of postponing the season Wednesday. The Pac 12 has had multiple meetings in recent days, and those are expected to continue next week, as well.

Brandon Zenner can be reached at brandon.zenner@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowZenner.