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Answers to schedule shuffling questions could come soon for WVU and Marshall

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There are few certainties in college football scheduling as we enter the month of August. In the Big 12, a fuzzy picture could become much more clear following a meeting of school presidents on Monday.

For West Virginia, athletic director Shane Lyons knows the Mountaineers will not play Florida State or Maryland as originally scheduled and they will not be making a trip to Atlanta. Eastern Kentucky remains on the schedule and the Colonels are still expected to come to Morgantown on September 12. If the Big 12 school presidents go against the trend of other major conferences and opt to play a full twelve-game slate, Lyons is looking at numerous options.

“We are probably looking for a home game,” Lyons said. “We have to be able to see what the council of presidents will do. If you look at the other ‘Autonomy 5’ conferences, there has been a delay in the start of the season. I don’t know for sure what our presidents will do on Monday night. So I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But I have been contacted by a number of institutions interested in playing.

“We entered this week still wanting to play all twelve games. We understand that the conference portion is very important and we have to make sure that we get that right. With other athletic directors, I do think that they are optimistic they will play starting September 5th.”

Assuming that West Virginia will be able to host their full conference slate of five games in Morgantown, seating capacity at Milan Puskar Stadium will fall short of initial expectations.

“At one time, we were hoping to be at least fifty percent. But with the way things are right now, I don’t think that is going to be an option. If we go to social distancing, we are probably looking at 20 to 25 percent capacity. We have a few weeks until we have to make sure of that question.”

Meanwhile in Huntington, it looks like Marshall and their Conference USA rivals will have an opportunity to play a full twelve game schedule.

“We’re staying right where we are at,” said Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick. “If it gets to that point where I can only find two other teams other than our eight conference games, I can play Conference USA games that will not count as a conference game. For example, we don’t play UTEP. We don’t play San Antonio, We don’t play Southern Miss. We don’t play North Texas.”

The Herd are scheduled to visit East Carolina in a ‘Week Zero’ game on August 29. That game, as well as matchups at Ohio and at home against Boise State will be played. Their home game versus Pittsburgh on September 12 cannot be played due to ACC policy prohibiting its schools from leaving their home state to play a non-conference game.

West Virginia and Marshall currently share a week without a scheduled opponent on September 5.

“I have always been open to playing West Virginia in football,” Hamrick said. “But they have their issues with scheduling and how they do things. And we do also.

“My dilemma right now as we speak is I lost a home game.”

Marshall began official preseason practice on Friday. Hamrick has been encouraged with recent rounds of student-athlete COVID testing.

“You can try to mitigate the virus that we are dealing with in a lot of ways. And we are doing that. Let’s just hope it works so we can play college football this fall.

“We tested 104 student-athletes a week ago and we had zero positives. So our kids are doing a good job. Now that can change and it can change overnight. And that’s what you have to be on top of and that’s why our philosophy from day one is that we are going to test, test, test and test until we can’t test anymore.”

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