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Mid-American Conference to return with 6-game football season to start on Nov. 4

Central Michigan quarterback Tommy Lazzaro (7) stretches over the goal line for a touchdown during the second half of the Mid-American Conference championship game against Miami of Ohio, Dec. 7, 2019, in Detroit. (AP photo)

The Mid-American Conference, the first major college football league to postpone its season because of the pandemic, became the final one to jump back in, making it 10 out of 10 conferences that will play in the fall.

As university presidents in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West have done over the last 10 days, MAC leaders on Friday voted unanimously to reverse their August decision to push football to spring. The MAC will instead open its season Nov. 4.

Just like the other conferences returning to fall ball, the MAC cited advancements in COVID-19 antigen testing as key to the change of direction. The conference will begin testing athletes four times per week, starting Oct 5.

If all goes well, by the first weekend of November, there will be college football from coast-to-coast. That seemed highly unlikely throughout much of the summer as the United States struggled to contain a virus that has killed more than 200,000 people across the country.

The pandemic is still not under control in many states, but college football will go on in front of empty stadiums or limited attendance.

Central Michigan linebackers Troy Brown, left, and Troy Hairston react after Brown's targeting foul during the second half of the Mid-American Conference championship game against Miami of Ohio on Dec. 7 in Detroit. (AP file photo)

“The risk of college football spreading the virus is much less than the risk of fraternity parties or off-campus parties or concerts that are happening,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. “The risk is much more for coronavirus off the field than it is on the field.”

The MACtion will start on a Wednesday, of course, and the championship game will be played Dec. 18 or 19. A full schedule will be released later, along with the conference’s full medical protocols.

“Our decisions, in August and again today, have been guided by an overriding concern for the well-being of the student athletes, institutions, and the community at large,” Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “Our medical advisory group, presidents, directors of athletics, and others, have worked hard to develop a plan that provides the opportunity for student athletes to compete.”

Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier, who along with NIU’s president pushed hard for the postponement, said he felt good about the MAC’s new protocols.

“No one was more hesitant than me,” he said. But, he added, the MAC’s doctors and experts “made me a believer.”

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