LAWRENCE — Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and dissimilar decisions by two fellow Power Five members, the Big 12 is moving forward with its plans for fall football, the conference announced Wednesday.


Local medical experts appear to have influenced that decision.


"(Tuesday) evening we had a team from the University of Kansas that was very helpful in helping the board think through the issues," said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby during a news teleconference held shortly after the conference announced its decision. "We also had a representative from the Mayo Clinic that works in genetic cardiology that provided some very helpful information."


The Big 12 provided its own clarity to KU and the league’s other nine programs Wednesday through the release of the conference schedule.


The Jayhawks will open Big 12 play at Baylor (Sept. 26) before welcoming Oklahoma State (Oct. 3) for a tilt at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Back-to-back road contests at West Virginia (Oct. 17) and Kansas State (Oct. 24) precede a home clash with Iowa State (Oct. 31), and after another road game at Oklahoma (Nov. 7), KU will play host to Texas (Nov. 21) and TCU (Nov. 28). The Jayhawks are scheduled to complete their conference slate with a road finale at Texas Tech (Dec. 5).


"Our priority is always to promote the health, safety and well-being of every one of our nearly 500 student-athletes, and we will not waiver in that commitment," said KU athletic director Jeff Long in a news release. "We have known since the shutdown last spring that it would be a challenge to play college sports during this pandemic. That said, we are confident the additional testing protocols instituted by the members of the Big 12 conference will allow those student-athletes who choose to move forward and compete the ability to do so this fall."


Big 12 members will play a "nine-plus-one" format this season, with each program scheduling a single nonconference opponent. KU, which was previously set to play host to Southern Illinois (Aug. 29) and travel to Coastal Carolina (Sept. 26), has removed those games from its online schedule with no announced plans for the lone nonconference contest.


"We are excited to be able to move forward with the updated schedule and compete this fall," said KU football coach Les Miles. "We will continue to prepare for our season cautiously, while also relying on the direction and oversight of Kansas Team Health medical professionals to provide our players with a game plan that promotes their health and safety."


Bowlsby described the medical committee at the Big 12’s disposal — a team of doctors, researchers and scientists from inside and outside of the conference — as "a star-studded group" of individuals at the forefront of expertise in the area of infectious diseases.


The feedback from that community, Bowlsby later noted, has essentially been unanimous.


"The biggest argument (for playing) is that nobody has told us that it’s poorly advised to go forward and do what we are doing," Bowlsby said. "If we get to the place where our doctors and scientists say, ‘You know what? You guys have two wheels off the tracks and you’re headed for a trainwreck,’ we will pivot that day. If it’s during camp, it’s during camp. If it’s during October, it’s during October. If it’s the week before our championship game, that’s when it is.


"Making adjustments on the fly are going to be part of this, but our medical professionals have said, ‘Go forward, move slowly, make small adjustments, constantly be vigilant about changes in the environment.’ That’s what we’re listening to, and they have told us that it’s safe to move forward on that basis. When they tell us otherwise, we will be listening to that, as well."