UNI Panthers

Missouri Valley Football Conference to cancel 2020 fall season

League confirms intentions to field spring season

Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Mark Farley walks down the sideline during the second quarter of their game at the UNI
Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Mark Farley walks down the sideline during the second quarter of their game at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — The Missouri Valley Football Conference announced the cancellation of its 2020 fall season last night at 8 p.m.

A source told The Gazette the MVFC will aim to play a season in the spring with March, April and May as its target months. Meanwhile, reports elsewhere indicate efforts will be made by a number of FCS leagues to play a spring season.

The MVFC’s statement last night confirmed its intentions for a spring season.

“In its unwavering commitment to providing meaningful and safe competitive opportunities for the Conference’s student-athletes, the MVFC will play a full 8-game spring league schedule with the expectation to culminate the season with the FCS Playoffs,” the statement said.

After the Big Sky and Pioneer League opted out of a fall season on Thursday and Friday, respectively, the FCS dropped below the 50-percent threshold of participation from its teams for the NCAA Board of Governors to approve fall playoffs and a championship game.

Drake athletics director Brian Hardin, whose football program is part of the Pioneer League, said Friday there is momentum toward a spring season, but the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential lack of student-athlete participation could create obstacles just as difficult to navigate as those that exist currently.

If the MVFC, and any other FCS conferences, settle on a season that spans from March into May, several student-athletes who are potential 2020 NFL Draft prospects could decide to opt out.

Northern Iowa’s 2020 roster includes three potential NFL Draft prospects in offensive tackle Spencer Brown, defensive end Elerson G. Smith and defensive back Xavior Williams.

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Indeed, on Friday, after reports confirmed the fate of the fall season in the FCS, Williams announced on Twitter that he was entering the transfer portal to give himself the best opportunity to reach his goal of playing in the NFL.

UNI’s MVFC rival North Dakota State also could see sophomore quarterback Trey Lance opt out of a spring season. He’s been regarded as a potential first-round selection.

FCS teams still can schedule nonconference games this fall and a source told The Gazette on Thursday that FBS teams haven’t ruled out keeping FCS teams on their fall schedules.

In a release briefly following the one from the MVFC, UNI announced it will not participate in non-conference games this fall and hopes to reschedule its 2020 non-conference matchups.

Meanwhile, UNI fans who have already purchased season tickets have four options: transfer your season tickets to the spring season; transfer the balance of your account to the Panther Scholarship Club as a 100-percent tax-deductible donation; apply the balance of your account as a credit toward seasons tickets in fall 2021; or receive a full refund. Season ticket holders have until Sept. 1 to make a selection.

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