What was beginning to look like a certainty became official Wednesday.
The Big South Conference announced it would be suspending its fall sports seasons, and because of it, Kennesaw State’s football team will likely have to wait until next spring at the earliest to play a game.
“We are all broken-hearted that we will not be able to provide competitive opportunities for Big South student-athletes this fall,” Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander said in a release. “However, the path forward must protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, and some of the current trends and unknowns with COVID-19 have made that a huge challenge. Our intention is to shift these fall seasons to the spring as we would like nothing more than to crown Big South champions in all 19 of our sports this year.”
Before the fall season was called off, Kennesaw State had been voted as the favorite to win the conference for the third time in four years. The Owls were coming off an 11-3 season in which they advanced to the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, and linebacker Bryson Armstrong — a former Kell High School standout — was voted the preseason conference defensive player of the year for the third time.
Kennesaw State was also entering the season ranked 10th in the FCS with an offense that was coming back nearly intact and led the FCS in rushing, along with a defense that was third in the FCS a year ago.
Now, everyone’s attention turns to the spring, with the hopes of competing for a conference title then.
“While we are disappointed our student-athletes will not have a chance to compete for a championship this fall, we remain committed to working with the Big South Conference and non-conference partners to build an exciting spring football schedule for our players, fans and Kennesaw State student body,” Kennesaw State athletic director Milton Overton said in a release. “Our football program now has a clear path forward, and we will keep our options open in the fall while always making the health and safety of our student-athletes our number one priority.”
While the Big South said it would allow non-conference games in the fall, that looks unlikely for Kennesaw State. The Owls have only one non-conference game remaining on their original schedule — a home game against Samford on Oct. 3.
As concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic grew, Kennesaw State’s schedule began to shrink. First, it lost its season opener against Point on Sept. 5, and then games against Hampton, Monmouth, Alabama State, Kent State and finally Tarleton State.
It left the Owls with only five games remaining, and no additions had been made.
The Big South became the 10th of 13 FCS conferences to cancel fall sports. The only three remaining are the Southern, Ohio Valley and Southland conferences.
Kennesaw State’s other fall sports programs are still waiting to hear their fates from the ASUN Conference, with Overton saying in the release that a decision from the league “is forthcoming.” The Owls’ men’s and women’s cross country, women’s volleyball and women’s soccer programs compete in the fall. The men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis programs also have short schedules in the fall, with their main competition dates in the spring.