Game cancellations or postponements have become commonplace in the college football world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The powers-that-be are also discussing the possibility of moving back the dates for the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowls — the pinnacle of the sport’s postseason — according to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
One day after telling Sirius XM radio that the CFP’s management committee — which includes the 10 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick — has discussed scenarios involving pushing the playoff back, he told ESPN, “We’re not going to move off of that schedule unless we’re forced to move off of it.”
News of these discussions have surfaced as 15 college football games this week have been either postponed or canceled because of COVID-19, and it’s been particularly felt at the top of the sport.
Six of the Associated Press Top 25 teams have had their Saturday games canceled or postponed, including three of the nation’s top 5 teams: No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 5 Texas A&M.
On Friday, the Southeastern Conference, college football’s premier conference, announced it will utilize Dec. 19 as a date to play football games that had to be rescheduled during the 2020 season due to the pandemic.
That’s the same day scheduled for the SEC Championship Game, and one day before the final CFP rankings are scheduled to be unveiled.
“The added flexibility of a December 19 playing date for teams that do not qualify for the SEC Football Championship and the ability to adjust opponents on five-day notification provide a greater opportunity for our schools to play a full schedule of games in 2020,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.
The national championship game is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2021, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, with the semifinal games at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
Bowlsby told Sirius XM that while he doesn’t envision the championship game being played in February, “These are unusual times, and things that might not otherwise be acceptable have to be considered in this kind of circumstance.”
“The commissioners regularly engage in scenario planning,” Bowlsby said. “We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t. That’s been especially true in 2020. We have no plans to change anything. It’s just good management to think about what-ifs and if we don’t do that, how would we respond if we needed to respond?”
The first CFP rankings are set to be released on Tuesday, Nov. 24. New rankings will come out each of the subsequent Tuesdays until the final rankings are released Sunday, Dec. 20.
Each of the matchups determined by the CFP committee — from the national semifinals to the New Year’s Six bowls (Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Peach Bowl are the others) — will be announced on that day.
Bowlsby told ESPN there is no cutoff date to make a decision on whether the postseason dates would be changed. CFP executive director Bill Hancock relayed that the conference commissioners’ desire is to play the CFP games as currently scheduled, “knowing it won’t be perfect,” per ESPN.
“Nothing is imminent,” Hancock told ESPN. “They’re talking about a lot of things, which is night and day different than they’re going to do it.”