Update: Oklahoma State's Season Opener Against Oregon State Canceled

Robert Allen

STILLWATER -- It's official, a little more than 24 hours after the Big Ten announced a conference-only schedule for the 2020 season, the Pac 12 has followed.

The Pac 12 announced on Friday that football, along with several other sports, would be playing a conference-only schedule for the fall of 2020, effectively canceling Oklahoma State's opener against Oregon State in Stillwater on Sept. 3. 

Ironically, the commissioner of the Pac 12, Larry Scott, revealed shortly after the news from the conference that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Oklahoma State is now going through the seismic shift the rest of college football embarked on earlier this week when the Ivy League became the first Division I (FCS) conference to make a move and cancel or postpone their football season until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The more influential move was made Thursday when the Big Ten announced that they would play conference games only, if they play any football games this fall.  

The big picture question is now with two Power Five leagues going to conference games only, what will the Big 12 do? Hang on to this one for a few paragraphs. 

The small picture question is what does that mean for Oklahoma State and the return game in the home and home series that started last season with the Cowboys visiting the Beavers in Corvallis?

Efforts to reach Oklahoma State deputy athletic director Chad Weiberg were unsuccessful. Weiberg had insisted, as had reports from media in Corvallis, Ore. that cover the Beavers program, that Oregon State had every intention of being in Stillwater if the game was going to be played.

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Mike Gundy shakes hands with Jonathan Smith after the win over Oregon State in Corvallis to open last season, USA Today Sports Images - Troy Wayrynen

A high-ranking Oklahoma State athletic department official did tell Pokes Report that the contract with Oregon State has a clause for them to opt out of this season's game for unusual or extreme circumstances and make the game up in a later season. That is likely going to be the action taken now that the Pac 12 is no longer allowing members to play non conference games. 

"It may be 15-years from now, but Oregon State will come and play in Stillwater," said our source.

As for the rest of the non conference season, the Tulsa game (Sept. 12) looks to be the most certain of the three. They are close by, have a long standing relationship with Oklahoma State and they are expected to monitor their team for coronavirus.

The other non conference game is with Western Illinois (Sept. 19). The problem presented there is how aggressively the FCS program will monitor and test their team for COVID-19. As of now, the Missouri Valley Football Conference and it's teams are planning on playing this season, although a number of Division II conferences have announced postponing football in the fall. 

The Western Illinois game is one that Oklahoma State would have to examine closely with regards to concerns regarding the coronavirus. 

If the Big 12 is playing non conference games, some options would be to look around at other regional schools that have lost a non conference game and match up. Or the Pokes could play Tulsa multiple times if their schedule allows it, or play another Big 12 team that loses a non conference game like TCU against Cal that first weekend and play it as a non conference game.

Tulsa is scheduled to host Toledo (Sept. 5), host Northwestern State (La) (Sept. 19), and travel to Arkansas State (Sept. 26). North Texas might be a good match for an opener as they are scheduled to host Houston Baptist on Sept. 5, but given conditions in Houston that game could be in question. 

All of this leads to the big picture question and the Big 12 is not inclined to move right now on any action. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby prefers to wait and see as most officials in college sports believed the deadline for firm decisions on the college football season is July 31. 

When Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register asked Bowlsby if the Big 12 planned to make a decision on the season soon, such as announcing conference games only, his one word answer was, "No!." 

"We need to do what our doctors and our scientists are telling us, which is move slowly ahead and constantly reevaluate," Bowlsby told CBS Sports on Thursday. "That is going to decide whether we're ready and able to play."

The Big 12 athletic directors are said to favor playing non conference games and not limiting to conference games only.

"The only advantage to [a conference-only schedule] is you can spread the games out over more weeks," Bowlsby analyzed. "It doesn't mean you're going to start your schedule the first week of October. You're going to try to start it on time and spread it out so you have more time to recover and more time to get over outbreaks. For whatever reason, the Big Ten felt like they wanted to go to it right now."

The commissioner, who has athletic directors in his league in the quintet of Baylor's Mack Rhoades, Kansas State's Gene Taylor, Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione, TCU's Jeremiah Donati and West Virginia AD Shane Lyons; looking into protocols and contingencies for all types of scenarios and circumstances for this season is staying open to all possibilities. However, a conference-only schedule for the Big 12 was drawn up by that committee of athletic directors early in their process. 

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Chuba Hubbard will launch his final college season against somebody other than the Beavers.USA Today Sports Images - Troy Wayrynen

Now that OSU vs. OSU won't happen on Sept. 3, 2020, it's looking more like 2024 or beyond, as that is the first opening that shows up on an Oklahoma State schedule. 

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