Oklahoma football: Big 12 a model for handling COVID

Oklahoma football has played all seven of its scheduled games this season without interruption.

That might seem like a “so-what?” statement until you factor in all the postponements and cancellations that have occurred in college football this season because of the coronavirus pandemic, and cases are beginning to surge again as colder fall weather sets in.

With the league big dogs, Oklahoma and Texas, both sporting a couple of conference losses, the Big 12 has received very little respect this season from the pundits and experts that follow and comment on college football. But what you can’t fault is how the Big 12 has navigated through all the anxiety and adversity associated with the pandemic.

The Big 12, the SEC and the ACC were the only Power Five conferences that initially opted to play a 2020 season in the fall despite COVID concerns.

Although there have been some games postponed in the first two months of the season, the numbers were much fewer than many thought as college football tiptoed into the season. And the Big Ten and Pac-12 have only been playing for a few weeks.

This past week has been the worst in terms of the number of games in the major conferences that are not being played because of COVID outbreaks. And we’re likely to see more of this as the weather turns colder.

Big 12 leads all Power Five leagues in managing the pandemic

The Pac-12 did not start its season until Nov. 7, and two games were cancelled because of coronavirus. This week two more Pac-12 games are not being played. The Nov. 14 game between Ohio State and Maryland was cancelled, and COVID took its toll on four SEC games this week.

Berry Tramel, sports columnist for The Oklahoman, compiled some interesting numbers to show how FBS conferences are doing in managing through this difficult season.

Entering this weekend, the Big 12 had played 29 conference games, and only one has been postponed due to coronavirus. Oklahoma State and Baylor were originally scheduled to play on Oct. 17. That game was rescheduled to Dec. 12.

With just one game postponed or cancelled due to coronavirus, the Big 12 owns the best record of all the Power Five conferences. The ACC is right with the Big 12, however, losing just two games out of 48 conference games played, according to Tramel’s research.

The SEC has had six games altered out of 40 games played; the Big Ten has had three games cancelled out of 19 games and the Pac-12 has already lost four games in just two weeks of play.

With the Big 12 championship race tightening up, none of the contenders — especially the Oklahoma Sooners, who need to defeat Oklahoma State next weekend and win out in their final two games to keep their hopes alive to make it to the Big 12 Championship — to lose a game, or worse key players, because of COVID.

Oklahoma and the rest of the Big 12 have done a terrific job so far at avoiding pandemic stoppages. Now more than ever, they need to keep their guard up and continue strict enforcement of health and safety protocols and procedures to protect against COVID exposure.