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Beyond the Fort: Mountain West football back?!

Could the Frogs’ former conference be returning to football this fall?

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Hawaii at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

TCU Football is returning to the field this week, but that’s not the only news in the college football world. In fact, the Frogs’ old conference home is looking to come back this fall as well. Let’s take a look Beyond the Fort.

Optimism abounds out West, as Pete Thamel is reporting that the Mountain West Conference is expected to follow the Big Ten’s lead and vote to pursue and eight game, conference-only schedule beginning as early as October.

The league’s athletic directors met on Monday and discussed with conference officials the final steps in returning, including a testing plan that involves frequent antigen testing. The final plan still needs to be approved by Mountain West Conference presidents, who have a scheduled meeting for Friday but could end up voting earlier, sources said.

The league is aiming to return to play on Oct. 24 and execute an eight-game league schedule that would culminate in a Mountain West Conference title game on Dec. 19.

While the Mountain West looks to make its return, Notre Dame might be taking a step back after multiple athletes tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday. In a statement, Notre Dame Athletics announced that the football program has decided to pause all football-related activities until further testing can be completed. Combined with testing results from last week, a total of 13 football players are now in isolation with 10 in quarantine. “With student-athlete health and safety our primary focus, we will continue to follow our prevention protocols and ongoing testing procedures,” said football Coach Brian Kelly. The Fighting Irish were scheduled to play Wake Forest Saturday, and are 2-0 on the season.

There’s a lot of interesting coach news as well this week; former TCU Baseball great and Gary Patterson assistant Chris Thomsen is returning to the main headset for Florida State Saturday, Thomsen, who played three years of football for the Frogs and was an All-American on the diamond, finished his playing career at ACU and later spent seven seasons as their head coach. After stints at Texas Tech and Arizona State, Thomsen joined Patterson’s staff in Fort Worth for three years before following good friend Mike Norvell to FSU. Now, with Norvell benched due to a positive COVID test, Thomsen will serve as acting head coach Saturday as the Seminoles taking on red-hot Miami. He’s excited for the opportunity. “I’m really excited to be a part of that. I can’t wait to you know, feel the energy of that game and the competitiveness of that game. Again, being in some of those in different conferences, different leagues, and getting to experience that in this league, I’m really looking forward to that.”

A couple of former college stars have also joined the collegiate coaching ranks recently; running back Marcus Lattimore, who dominated at South Carolina before a devastating knee injury all but ended his career, has landed at Portland’s Lewis & Clark College, a DIII school where he will serve as a mentor and life coach. Deion Sanders, who recently was running the ill-fated Prime Prep into the ground, was hired by Jackson State, an HBCU that plays in the SWAC, and charged with turning around a program that hasn’t posted a winning record since 2013, but has a long history producing NFL talent. Currently the OC at Trinity Christian, Sanders recently launched a podcast on the Barstool Sports platform, and will balance completing his high school season with recruiting and preparing for the SWAC’s six game, conference-only tilt next spring. Possibly more interesting than the hiring of Sanders might be the makeup of his staff; if the rumors are true, names like Warren Sapp, Terrell Owens, and Jason Phillips are expected to matriculate to Mississippi.

Curious about TCU’s chances of going bowling this fall? Here’s what the road to bowl eligibility might look like, according to Football Bowl Association executive director Nick Carparelli: “People have been through so much. Nobody’s going to play 12 games, right? You can’t compare teams that play seven or eight games. You kind of look at it as an extension of the regular season.” There are currently 41 bowl games still on the schedule, and matchups are expected to be prioritized by location as much as anything. It will be a weird bowl season, but that’s nothing new, right?