June 5, 2018; Stanton, DE, USA; At 1:30 p.m. today Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Delaware launches the country's first full-scale sports betting operation outside of Nevada as people roll into the Casino at Delaware Park in Stanton, Del. to wager their bets. Mandatory Credit: Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK

Record 45.2M Americans expected to bet on NFL in 2021

A record 45.2 million Americans are expected to wager during this upcoming NFL season, a 36 percent increase year-over-year, the American Gaming Association (AGA) announced Tuesday.

The increase is largely due to eight more states where fans can legally bet compared to 2020. Americans can wager in 26 states versus 18 one year ago.

Further, three more states (Arizona, South Dakota, Washington) are expected to come online by Thursday’s regular season kickoff and two more by the end of the season.

“Importantly, when the 2021 NFL season begins, more than 111m American adults will be able to wager safely with regulated sportsbooks in their home states rather than with the predatory illegal market,” AGA president and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement.

Based on its research, AGA projects that five million Americans will place a bet online (up 73 percent YOY) while seven million will bet with a bookie (up just 13 percent).

The Kansas City Chiefs are the most popular Super Bowl bet among Americans, followed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys.

–Field Level Media

Oklahoma's Marvin Mims (17) catches the ball in front of Oklahoma State's Amen Ogbongbemiga (7) and Rodarius Williams (8) during a Bedlam college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State Cowboys (OSU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Oklahoma won 41-13. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

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Big 12 sets COVID-19 forfeit policy

The Big 12 Conference announced Tuesday that football teams who do not have enough players available, due to COVID-19 or any other reason, will forfeit and take a loss in the conference standings.

“The opponent will be credited with a win in the Conference standings,” a statement from the Big 12 read in part. “Both teams will be deemed to have played the game for purposes of Conference standings only.”

The conference will use a “no contest” designation in the event that both teams in a given game are unable to play.

The Big 12 follows the Pac-12 in setting a policy for the 2021 season that in effect penalizes programs that cannot keep COVID-19 from spreading through their ranks. During the 2020 college football season, when the pandemic was still fresh and vaccines weren’t yet available, games were often postponed due to one or both teams being short-handed, but many were canceled as well.

The college football season begins the first weekend of September, when all 10 Big 12 teams will be in action playing nonconference games. The league is still reeling from Texas and Oklahoma’s decision to leave for the SEC in 2025.

–Field Level Media

Feb 4, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; NFL football commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference ahead of Super Bowl 55, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.  Mandatory Credit: Perry Knotts/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

NFL to release 2021 schedule May 12

The NFL announced Wednesday it will release the 2021 regular-season schedule on May 12 at 8 p.m. ET.

For the first time, NFL teams will play a 17-game slate, with the additional game being approved by an owners’ vote last month. The 17th game will pit teams against interconference opponents that finished in the same place in their respective divisions. The AFC teams will play host for these games in 2021.

Among these matchups: the Green Bay Packers against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Dallas Cowboys visiting the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams playing the Baltimore Ravens.

Other notable games in 2021 include Tom Brady’s return to New England as an opponent when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Patriots, and the Jacksonville Jaguars playing the New York Jets in a game that will pit the No. 1 and No. 2 overall draft picks against one another.

The schedule release will also reveal which teams will play in prime time on opening night, with Super Bowl LV champion Tampa Bay expected to be the host.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; General overall view of Pac-12 logo at midfield prior to the Pac-12 Conference championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 to resume football in November with 7-game slate

The Pac-12 Conference announced Thursday that it will start its football season in early November and play a seven-game, conference-only slate.

The conference’s season will kick off Nov. 6 and the conference championship game will be held Dec. 18. Teams may begin practicing immediately, contingent on local public health approvals.

The Pac-12 said a schedule will be released in the coming days.

The conference announced in August that it was following the lead of the Big Ten and other conferences to put off fall sports out of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pac-12 again follows the Big Ten in its decision to bring back football. The Big Ten will resume play on Oct. 24.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports remains our guiding light and No. 1 priority,” said Pac-12 CEO Group Chair and University of Oregon President Michael Schill. “Our CEO Group has taken a measured and thoughtful approach to today’s decision, including extensive consultation with stakeholders on the evolving information and data related to health and safety.”

The Pac-12 previously announced a deal with Quidel Corp. for a daily rapid-tests program.

“Our agreement with Quidel to provide daily rapid-results testing has been a game-changer in enabling us to move forward with confidence that we can create a safe environment for our student-athletes while giving them the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “At the same time, we will continue to monitor health conditions and data and be ready to adjust as required in the name of the health of all.”

The conference also announced that winter sports can go on as well, with basketball cleared to be part of the Nov. 25 start announced by the NCAA.

–Field Level Media

Sep 7, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Buffalo Bulls running back Kevin Marks (5) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Buffalo 45-13. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

MAC presidents discuss return to football, delay vote

The Mid-American Conference will continue to discuss the possibility of playing a fall football season, commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said Saturday.

His statement followed a virtual meeting of conference presidents, at which no vote was taken. School presidents voted Aug. 8 to call off all fall sports amid the continued threat of COVID-19.

“Return-to-play models in the sport of football were reviewed,” Steinbrecher said about the meeting. “No decisions were made and we will continue examination of this matter during a meeting next week.”

The Mid-American was the first FBS conference to either cancel or postpone fall sports, including football. The Big Ten and Pac-12 followed their move, but the Big Ten announced Wednesday that a nine-week football schedule will be played beginning in late October. The Pac-12 is also examining a return in time to compete in a fall season.

The Toledo Blade reported Thursday that the MAC could play a six- or eight-game fall season that would begin in late October and finish with a conference championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.

Part of the Pac-12’s growing confidence about a return to play is an agreement with a lab for daily, rapid testing. The MAC has not yet signed such a deal, nor is it known how the conference would pay for it.

Members of the MAC are Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan.

–Field Level Media

Nov 30, 2019; Eugene, OR, USA; A young Oregon Ducks fan cheers for a t-shirt during the second half against the Oregon State Beavers at Autzen Stadium. The Oregon Ducks beat the Oregon State Beavers 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Pac-12 expected to OK fall season on Friday

A fall football season will be on the agenda when Pac-12 presidents and chancellors meet Friday afternoon, and they likely will give the go-ahead for teams to play earlier than expected.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News said the leaders probably won’t emerge from the meeting with an announcement of a start date but rather their agreement for football games to be played this fall instead of the spring. Still, Wilner said, athletic directors in the conference prefer an Oct. 31 start date.

The Pac-12 announced in August that it was following the lead of the Big Ten and other conferences and would put off fall sports out of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Big Ten announced a decision to begin the season in October. And this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown gave approval for the six teams in their states — half of the conference — to begin 11-on-11 practice provided the schools’ coronavirus protocols meet local health guidelines.

The Oregonian reported Thursday that the initial decision by presidents and chancellors to postpone all conference sports competition until at least Jan. 1 came “after they saw a presentation that included erroneous statistics that overstated the prevalence of COVID-19 in several of the conference’s communities during the first week of August,” most glaringly in Los Angeles.

A member of the Pac-12’s medical advisory body said the statistics presented — even without the ones described as erroneous — still would have led the group to the same recommendation to delay the season.

“The data presented by the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee to the CEO Group was accurately sourced at the time,” Dr. Kim Harmon, associate team physician at the University of Washington, told The Oregonian. “To the extent that there were subsequent updates to the reported data by COVID Act Now, state or local dashboards, they would not have changed the overarching recommendation of the Medical Advisory Committee.”

The Pac-12 is addressing medical concerns, however. The conference announced on Sept. 3 a deal with Quidel Corp. that will allow for daily and rapid COVID-19 testing of athletes in “close-contact” sports. The testing apparatus is expected to be delivered to each campus by the end of September.

–Field Level Media

March 5, 2020; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees walks amongst the players during Notre Dame's first spring football practice at the Irish Athletics Center. Mandatory Credit: Santiago Flores/South Bend Tribune via USA TODAY NETWORK

Notre Dame cancels practice; five positives, six more quarantined

Notre Dame canceled Thursday’s football practice after five players tested positive for COVID-19 and six more were quarantined due to exposure.

The Fighting Irish program plans to test players again Friday, the school said, but will not allow workouts or team-related gatherings until further notice. Any clearance for football to resume will come from the school’s medical staff.

Earlier in the week, Notre Dame announced classes for students would shift exclusively to remote learning environments and not take place on campus in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame said it has administered a total of 851 coronavirus tests to players and staff on the football team. In all, there have been nine positives. Of the nine positives, two were from initial reporting.

–Field Level Media

March 5, 2020; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees walks amongst the players during Notre Dame's first spring football practice at the Irish Athletics Center. Mandatory Credit: Santiago Flores/South Bend Tribune via USA TODAY NETWORK

Notre Dame cancels practice; five positives, six more quarantined

Notre Dame canceled Thursday’s football practice after five players tested positive for COVID-19 and six more were quarantined due to exposure.

The Fighting Irish program plans to test players again Friday, the school said, but will not allow workouts or team-related gatherings until further notice. Any clearance for football to resume will come from the school’s medical staff.

Earlier in the week, Notre Dame announced classes for students would shift exclusively to remote learning environments and not take place on campus in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame said it has administered a total of 851 coronavirus tests to players and staff on the football team. In all, there have been nine positives. Of the nine positives, two were from initial reporting.

–Field Level Media

Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen running back Marquis Young (8) runs the ball against the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UMass cancels football season

The University of Massachusetts canceled its football season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced Tuesday.

UMass is an FBS independent.

“The continuing challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic posed too great of a risk, and we reached the conclusion that attempting to play a season would not have placed the members of our program in the safest situation possible,” Minutemen athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement.

UMass players were informed of the decision Tuesday morning.

“I am absolutely heartbroken for our players, our former players, our alumni and our UMass Football community,” UMass coach Walt Bell said in a statement. “Our job as coaches and mentors is to provide opportunities for our players, and do everything in our power to not take them away. Today’s news was devastating, but we will be resilient and prepared to be our best when our best is required.”

UMass joins UConn as the second FBS independent to cancel its season. The Mid-American and Mountain West conferences have canceled their seasons as well.

–Field Level Media

Sep 21, 2019; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Old Dominion Monarchs quarterback Stone Smartt (4) scrambles from Virginia Cavaliers defensive tackle Aaron Faumui (94) in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Old Dominion breaks with C-USA, calls off football season

Old Dominion canceled its fall athletic season on Monday, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

“We concluded that the season — including travel and competition — posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” President John R. Broderick said in a university statement. “I know many on and off campus will be disappointed, but we must prioritize the health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as our coaches, staff and fans.”

Old Dominion’s football team becomes the 14th FBS program to announce it won’t play this fall, joining Connecticut and the 12 members of the Mid-American Conference.

The Monarchs are a member of Conference USA, which on Friday announced its board of directors approved a football schedule as well as return-to-play protocols. The first conference game is set for Sept. 12, and schools were given the option to add as many as four nonleague games.

Old Dominion was scheduled to open the season Sept. 4 at Wake Forest.

Conference USA officials didn’t immediately comment Monday on Old Dominion’s move.

But Old Dominion is opting out.

“This is just the right thing to do for everyone involved,” athletic director Wood Selig said. “After making this decision, I already feel a sense of relief.

“We’re not like the NBA. We can’t put our athletes and coaches and fans in a bubble, and we don’t have unlimited resources.”

Selig said he hopes fall sports can be played in the spring, “but first and foremost it has to be safe for everyone involved and would also require NCAA approval.”

First-year football coach Ricky Rahne said he accepts the cancellation of the season.

“My heart aches for our student-athletes,” Rahne said in a statement posted to Twitter. “From the moment our staff was hired, this group of players has been fully invested. I know how diligent each of them has worked in order to have a successful fall season. However, their health and safety is at the utmost importance, and I support the decision.”

He continued: “I am eager to continue to provide an atmosphere of development and a positive student-athlete experience for each of our players.”

The 40-year-old Rahne, most recently Penn State’s offensive coordinator, replaced Bobby Wilder, who resigned in December following a 1-11 season.

–Field Level Media