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Cancelations by these conferences likely spell the end of the FCS playoffs

Update: The Big Sky has now canceled its fall season, bringing the FCS to eight of 13 conferences and 75 of 123 teams that will not play this fall, by the NCAA's count.

“This is the right decision for our member institutions, even though we realize how disappointing it will be for all who represent and care about Big Sky football,” Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said. “We will now shift our attention to doing everything within our power to provide our football student-athletes and coaches with a conference schedule and a championship opportunity in the spring. We already have begun actively engaging our fellow FCS conferences and the NCAA to join us then for what will be a unique opportunity to return to competition and compete for an FCS championship.”

The Pioneer Football League announced Friday morning that it will not play a fall season.

This move was widely expected, given the non-scholarship league spreads from Florida to California. If this pandemic was specifically engineered to attack one football conference, that conference would be the Pioneer Football League.

“The Presidents and Athletic Directors of our respective universities made this very difficult decision after extensive deliberations and consideration of many factors. We recognize that our student-athletes will be disappointed, but our highest priority is the health and safety of all those involved in our athletic programs," said Butler president James M. Danko, chair of the PFL's Presidents Council. "Ultimately, the risks of proceeding are simply too high especially to ensure the safety of our students.”

The Pioneer League's announcement all but spells the end of the 2020 FCS playoffs.

I reached out to the NCAA seeking clarification on the Board of Governors' decree that a 50 percent participation rate is required to stage an NCAA championship. Since the Ivy League, the MEAC and the SWAC do not participate in the FCS playoffs, I wondered, do they count toward the FCS total?

"Championships is tracking on 123 active schools in Division I FCS (including Ivy, SWAC and MEAC) that are eligible for the championship," an NCAA spokesperson told me over email. "Of those, 54 are currently not playing (including the Ivy, SWAC and MEAC members)."

That was before the Pioneer's announcement Friday morning. Losing those eight teams brings the total to 62 drop-outs out of 123, just over the 50 percent threshold.

Regardless, it's widely expected that the Big Sky will announce today it is not competing this fall, taking the subdivision well above 50 percent while also removing one of the FCS's strongest conferences.

Like all other conferences that have made a similar move, the Pioneer said it was open to playing in the spring if conditions permit, so it's possible we could see two FCS playoffs in 2021.

And, as explained in detail earlier this week, the NCAA cannot stop the remaining conferences from staging their own tournament this fall. The organization has just set a standard for what it will take to hold its own championship, and the FCS is likely below that now.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.