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Big 12 commissioner Bowlsby says spring games are 'unlikely,' raises possibility of football season with no crowds

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In a teleconference Thursday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby talked about the changes in the sports world because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bob Bowlsby intends for the Big 12 to have a normal football season, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he can’t predict what will happen in the fall.

In a teleconference Thursday, Big 12 commissioner Bowlsby talked about a range of changes in the sports world that are related to this pandemic, and the unknowns about football season were a major topic.

“Right now, our plan is to play the football season as it’s scheduled,” Bowlsby said. “If we find out that we have to depart from that, we will do so, and we will do it with plenty of time to let people know what it is we’re thinking and to challenge what we’re thinking.”

At Oklahoma State University, fans were already building enthusiasm for football season during the winter, when running back Chuba Hubbard and wide receiver Tylan Wallace announced they would return for another year. The campaign to sell out Boone Pickens Stadium was emphasized at a pep rally in the Student Union, but it’s unclear whether crowds will be present at Cowboy football games this coming season.

Bowlsby said Big 12 football teams might play games in front of no fans, though at this point, it’s tough to make a prediction.

“I suppose it’s possible that we can return to some form of competition before we got to the point where we were comfortable with public assembly,” Bowlsby said. “And we can end up with what we thought we might end up with in basketball, and that is playing in front of no crowd. On the one hand, that allows you to watch it on television, but the environment would certainly be far poorer as a result of not having an enthusiastic crowd in the stands.”

Although it’s unclear how much the pandemic will affect football in the fall, spring football has shut down because of it. Bowlsby said the chances of having spring games or more days of spring practice are “unlikely.”

Here are a few other quotes from Bowlsby’s teleconference.

Bowlsby on the financial consequences of canceling sports events: "The canceled basketball championship games, it looks like it'll cost us about $6.6 million. The NCAA board of governors just took action to distribute $225 million, as opposed to $600 million, so we would normally get about $24 million from that. Instead, I think that distribution is going to be around $10 million.

“There are some fairly good-sized negatives, and there are a few positives that will make a difference. It looks like the net could be in the $15-to-18 million range, which obviously goes directly to distribution. Those are round numbers. It's a little early to tell if that's gonna play itself out.”

On the general situation: “I just think it’s very presumptuous to try and force athletics decisions into an environment that’s so uncertain and so universal in its impact in our society. I just think we all have to stand back and recognize that we’re managing important games, but they’re just games. It’s that context I think that’s kind of helped me to stay focused and think about these things in ways that are perhaps a little different than we might have in the past.”