UPDATE: Sept. 25 1:15 p.m.
Fresno State football will be making a return to the field in October, but fans will not join the Bulldogs in the return to Bulldog Stadium, according to a Fresno State Athletics email sent on Friday.
Per California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s current mandate, no fans will be permitted in Bulldog Stadium at any of the proposed home games this fall. If state guidance changes in the future, Fresno State Athletics will reevaluate at that time.
California recently moved away from the “watch list” system to a 4-tier color-coded system for all its counties. The system’s four tiers are purple, red, orange and yellow. Purple is labeled as widespread COVID-19 transmission and yellow is minimal COVID-19 transmission.
Each tier has a different set of rules regarding what businesses can and cannot do. Fresno County currently resides in the purple tier which means sporting events cannot have live audiences in the stands.
A county is categorized depending on the number of new daily COVID-19 cases and the testing positivity rate, or the number of tests with positive results.
“I want you to know that while are disappointed in not being able to have you and the rest of the Red Wave in Bulldog Stadium this season, this decision was made by our state public health officials to help ensure the safety of our student-athletes, fans and community,” Fresno State Athletic Director Terry Tumey said.
The Mountain West (MW) also held a webinar on Friday to give further detail on how the 2020 season will play out for the 12-team league following its announcement to play Thursday evening.
The MW said that it is partnering with Quest Diagnostics to provide rapid COVID-19 testing to all football programs. The rapid testing will be done via antigen testing, which detects the presence of a specific viral antigen and can provide results in approximately 15 minutes.
The MW will be covering 100% of the testing costs thanks to a reserve fund the MW had set aside.
All football student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field will undergo testing three times per week. Testing must be completed and recorded prior to each game.
Any member of a program who does test positive for COVID-19 through a point of contact (POC) testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.
MW Commissioner Craig Thompson said at a press conference this morning that he expects all 12 programs to participate in the fall despite the short amount of time between now and the return date.
“We have some restrictions certainly in some states right now. We talked that through a little bit and we are working through those with state, local and county government restrictions,” Thompson said. “It might be a little premature but at this point, everybody is making an attempted effort to get those clearances.”
Thompson said that the current timetable for all programs is about the length of a normal fall practice schedule.
A complete 2020 MW football schedule will be coming soon. Thompson said that most MW schedules will be unique as some programs, such as Air Force and Boise State, could have fewer conference games due to prior scheduling between non-conference programs.
For example, Air Force has scheduled games set between Army and Navy, with the Army game taking place two weeks after the start of the MW season.
There is also no room for rescheduling any games this season due to the shortened schedules. Therefore, if a COVID-19 outbreak does occur in a program and games must be canceled, there will be no games made up.
“We have eight games in eight weeks. I would fully anticipate not all 12 institutions in the MW will play eight games for various reasons,” Thompson said.
The MW football championship game will also no longer be held at Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the UNLV Rebels. Instead, the championship will be played at the site of the highest winning percentage team in the championship game.
On Thursday evening, the Mountain West Conference board of directors voted to bring back football in fall 2020.
The Mountain West (MW) confirmed a start date for Oct. 24, pending approval from local, county and state officials.
The regular-season schedule will be an 8-game schedule with the Mountain West Football Championship being played on Dec. 19.
The MW will be releasing a press release Friday morning.
Fresno State did not provide a statement at this time, however, a press conference is planned for tomorrow.
On Sept. 18, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro announced in a statement that Fresno State had developed a plan to bring student-athletes back on campus. Fresno State is the only MW program that has not brought back student-athletes, while other programs have already held some spring practices.
Earlier today, PAC-12 Football returned with a set date for Nov. 6. No fans will be allowed to be in the stands. PAC-12 Football Championship game will be held on Dec. 18.
This story will be updated.