The Kenneth P. Lavalle Stadium, home to Stony Brook Athletics, including football. The upcoming football season is in limbo due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SARA RUBERG/STATESMAN FILE

Although the Stony Brook football team is preparing for challenging competition, numerous conferences have made decisions that have lowered optimism around the playability of the 2020 college football season.

On July 8, the Ivy League became the first Division I conference to cancel all sports during the fall 2020 season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including football. The Ivy League was also the first conference to cancel its postseason basketball tournaments in March, which culminated in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) canceling March Madness and all spring sports two days later.

“With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk,” the Ivy League Council of Presidents said in a joint statement. 

On July 13, the Patriot League followed suit in canceling its fall sports season. The Patriot League’s prior guidelines barring non-conference competition before Sept. 4 caused the cancellation of Stony Brook’s original season opener at Fordham on Aug. 29. This decision will result in the end of the longest uninterrupted annual college football rivalry series between members Lafayette College and Lehigh University, which have faced off every year since 1897

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On July 16, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) became the third conference, all in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), to cancel its fall sports season.

Numerous Power Five conferences have eliminated their non-conference schedules, with both the Big Ten and the Pac-12 making the decision on July 10. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is also considering a conference-only slate but will not make an official decision until late July.

The cancelation of non-conference games will have devastating financial impacts, as smaller schools in the Group of Five and the FCS receive millions to play Power Five schools as underdogs. The Big Ten and Pac-12’s cancellations affected $45 million in guarantee money alone. USA Today Sports calculated the total sum of guarantee money for 139 non-conference games involving Power Five teams to be $122 million. 

This leads to a ripple effect that trickles down to the FCS, as their programs earn a bulk of their revenue from buy games with Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams. USA Today Sports calculated the total payout for 61 FBS-FCS matchups totaling nearly $26 million. Many schools in the Group of Five, which saw their guarantee money jeopardized by the Power Five cancellations, still have to pay FCS schools to play them. 

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Florida Atlantic, who the Seawolves play in Week 2, is set to pay Stony Brook $400,000 for a game that was scheduled two years in advance. However, Florida Atlantic was also set to receive $1.2 million to play Minnesota of the Big Ten in Week 1, a game that is now canceled. 

“Our interest was in playing a full schedule,” Mid-American Conference (MAC) commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said to USA Today. Stony Brook’s season opener at MAC member Western Michigan is set to pay out $325,000 to the Seawolves. This means Stony Brook is currently slated to receive a combined total of $725,000 for showing up to play the first two weeks of its season against FBS opponents.

Stony Brook Athletics declined to comment on how the department plans to bring back fall student-athletes for practice. Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis provided an outline for the return of fall student-athletes in an overview of plans for the fall semester. “As it stands today, student-athletes will return in a phased approach, with the arrival of football players in small groups starting in mid-July, followed by other fall sports in early- to mid-August.”

Due to COVID-19 concerns, Stony Brook will charter flights to both Western Michigan and Florida Atlantic.

On July 6, redshirt-senior quarterback Tyquell Fields tweeted “COVID test came back negative,” suggesting that practices could begin imminently.

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It is also currently unclear what guidelines will be in place for Stony Brook’s home football games at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. 

“There has not been an official determination regarding the admission of spectators including students to fall athletic events; however, we are studying a number of potential scenarios that include operating games with limited capacities,” an FAQ on Stony Brook’s website reads. “Decisions will be made with health and safety guidance set forth by the NCAA, New York State, local officials, public health experts, and campus leadership.”

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