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Northern Illinois becomes latest school to drop off BYU’s 2020 football schedule as MAC postpones fall season

Two days after Navy is added to the Cougars’ schedule, NIU falls off and BYU’s slate is back at six games again.

SHARE Northern Illinois becomes latest school to drop off BYU’s 2020 football schedule as MAC postpones fall season

FILE: Northern Illinois quarterback Marcus Childers is brought down by BYU defensive lineman Zac Dawe and linebacker Sione Takitaki during their game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. BYU’s scheduled matchup with Northern Illinois in 2020 is canceled after the Mid-American Conference, which the Huskies belong to, postponed its fall sports season Saturday.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

PROVO — Two days after adding Navy to its depleted 2020 football schedule, BYU lost another opponent it planned on playing this fall, dropping its scheduled games back down to six again.

The Cougars’ game at Northern Illinois on Oct. 24 in DeKalb, Illinois, is off the table because the Mid-American Conference, to which the Huskies belong, postponed its fall season for all sports, including football, due to player health and safety concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy first reported Saturday morning.

The league, which later made the news official, said its intent is to move fall competition to the spring.

“This decision was not made lightly,” MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher told McMurphy. “There are simply too many unknowns to put our student-athletes in these situations. This is simply a miserable decision. I am heartbroken we are in this place.”

The MAC, which includes 12 teams, is the first Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference to announce it won’t play this fall. UConn, which is an independent like BYU, was the first school to cancel its fall season.

Northern Illinois, arguably the premier football program in the MAC, joins Utah, Michigan State, Minnesota, Arizona State, Stanford and Missouri in dropping off BYU’s schedule.

The Cougars currently have six opponents lined up: Navy (Sept. 7), Utah State (Oct. 2), Houston (Oct. 16), Boise State (Nov. 6), San Diego State (Nov. 14) and North Alabama (Nov. 21).

In other scheduling news, North Carolina of the ACC added Charlotte to its schedule on Saturday, meaning that every ACC team but Clemson has added a nonconference opponent as permitted by the league. 

The Tigers have an opening Sept. 19, the day BYU was scheduled to play at Arizona State.

Stadium reported that NIU was the first MAC school to push for the cancellation because NIU president Lisa Freeman is a former research scientist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and has said her school would not play regardless of what the other MAC schools decided.

Friday, BYU conducted its second practice with players in full pads, and fifth practice of preseason training camp. The Cougars have given no indication that they don’t plan to play football this fall.

Two players who were asked by the Deseret News if they feel safe practicing and playing football in the midst of a pandemic, linebacker Payton Wilgar and running back Lopini Katoa, said they do and praised BYU’s efforts in combating COVID-19.

“BYU has been excellent with all that stuff,” Wilgar said. “I feel safe. I am sure all the other players feel safe. They have done a great job taking care of us.”