Phoenix will play 9 games in 2020 --
Mid-South Conference Commissioner Eric Ward has announced that the conference will revise its football schedule for the upcoming 2020 season following return to play guidelines established by the NAIA.
At the same time, Cumberland University athletic director Ron Pavan made a similar statement.
As recommended by the conference Football Oversight Committee and approved by the athletic directors and football coaches, the conference schedule will begin on Sept. 12 with all 22 teams in action.
“The Mid-South Conference football athletic directors and head coaches have vetted and approved a revised 2020 conference football schedule,” Ward said.
“With the lingering uncertainty regarding many of the details surrounding a return to play in the fall, our conference leadership, in accordance with the NAIA guidelines, felt it would be prudent to move forward with a contingency plan for football, the sport with the largest student-athlete participation and the most procedural complexities from the start of preseason practice thru completion of the regular season schedule.
"Our schools will face a number of challenges this fall, and the revised football schedule will make some of those challenges easier for our members to address.”
Ward, along with the MSC Football Oversight Committee -- comprised of two athletic directors from each of the three conference divisions -- sought a plan that would fit within the NAIA guidelines, but most importantly consider the well-being of the student-athletes while also being mindful of the potential fiscal challenges of Mid-South Conference institutions in the wake of COVID-19.
“The reasons this change in scheduling was deemed necessary are primarily two-fold,” Ward said.
“First and foremost, we are committed to and 100% focused on the safety, health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff.
"Pushing the conference start date back to Sept. 12 gives our coaches more time to get student-athletes acclimated and assess and focus on their appropriate physical conditioning after such a long, unprecedented period with no supervised work-outs.
A later start will also help accommodate a later-than-usual initial reporting date for football due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the preparations that our campuses are making in anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall.
“The second reason for the scheduling change was out of concern for the fiscal health of our member institutions,” Ward added.
"The revised schedule dramatically reduces travel for all teams, which means fewer hours riding on buses, fewer nights in hotels, and fewer meals in restaurants.
Conference leadership felt it was important that we anticipate some sort of alteration or interruption in these and possibly other facets of team travel, particularly when considering the various states where our schools are located and the different responses and guidelines within each.”
"This was not an easy process," Pavan said earlier this week. "There was so much to consider and football kind of stands alone just because of the sheer number of athletes and coached involved.
"Transportation was a huge issue -- especially when you consider our main bus provider was looking at one person per row, every other row. So we'd be looking at taking three or even four buses on an away trip."
CU football coach Tim Mathis and his staff finally have some definitive answers after weeks of questions.
"That was the thing," Mathis said, "I knew every attempt was going to be made in order for us to have a season. Now we know what it's going to look like.
"When you consider the NAIA has limited football teams to nine games, we've got a nine-game schedule so the Mid-South Conference did things the right way.
Phoenix football players will report to campus Monday, Aug. 10 and will begin practice Saturday, Aug. 15.
2020 Cumberland football schedule
Sep. 12 BETHEL
Sep. 19 at Campbellsville
Sep. 26 at U. Cumberlands
Oct. 3 GEORGETOWN
Oct. 10 THOMAS MORE
Oct. 17 LINDSEY WILSON
Oct. 24 at U. Pikeville
Oct. 31 at Bethel
Nov. 7 CAMPBELLSVILLE
home games in ALL CAPS