UNT

North Texas takes the field before the game against SMU last season. Conference USA did not back away from its Friday announcement that it will play football this fall after its board of directors issued a statement on Wednesday.

Conference USA is moving forward with its plans to play football this fall following a meeting of its board of directors Wednesday evening.

League officials heard from medical experts and discussed a host of factors related to playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference put out a statement shortly after the meeting.

“Conference USA membership continued evaluation, including robust discussion with medical experts, on Wednesday night. Myocarditis, mental health and enhanced testing protocols remain the focus.”

A source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed to the Denton Record-Chronicle that the league is “staying the course.”

The league announced on Friday that it would play its eight-game conference schedule and allow teams to play as many as four nonconference games.

The league didn’t back off that decision following the meeting of its presidents and athletic directors.

North Texas is set to open its season on Sept. 5 against Houston Baptist at Apogee Stadium.

C-USA officials met following a host of key developments in the league over the last few days.

Old Dominion announced Monday that it has canceled its fall sports season, while Rice pushed the start of its football season back to Sept. 26.

Louisiana Tech was forced to pause fall football practice late last week after five players tested positive for COVID-19, while UTEP was forced to postpone the start of fall drills due to four positive tests.

UNT had just one active case of COVID-19 across its entire athletic department following its latest round of tests that came back over the weekend. The school’s football, volleyball, soccer, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams are all back on campus, along with its administrative and support staff.

C-USA officials ultimately decided to proceed with the season, despite the varying situations at its member schools that are spread in a wide footprint.

Old Dominion is in Norfolk, Virginia, while UTEP is on the league’s western boundary in El Paso.

C-USA’s decision to proceed with its season came on the heels of a host of leagues across the country finalizing their plans for the fall.

The Big 12 elected to move forward with its football season after a Tuesday night meeting of the conference’s board of directors. The league released its football schedule Wednesday morning.

The Pac-12 announced Tuesday that it had postponed all competition until the end of 2020. The Big Ten has postponed fall sports, a move that also came down Tuesday.

UNT began bringing its football players back to campus in June. The school is testing all of its athletes and staff for COVID-19 as they return to campus.

The school had conducted 584 tests as of the weekend and has had 18 members of the department recover from COVID-19 infections.

“The last round of testing has gone really well,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “We are going to do everything possible to make sure our guys are safe.”

The question now is how quickly UNT can get up to speed for a season that is now officially a go.

The Mean Green didn’t get a single workout in before its spring drills were called off. UNT’s scholarship players reported to campus in three waves on consecutive Mondays beginning June 8. The remainder of the Mean Green’s roster arrived July 13.

UNT’s players have been pleased with the progress they have made since returning to campus.

“The energy was high,” wide receiver Jaelon Darden said Friday following the opening day of practice. “It felt good to be back out there with my teammates being active, learning plays and doing the best we can.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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