SALT LAKE CITY — The question of whether the 2020 college football season will start on time took a big step in the affirmative direction on Wednesday.
The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to approve a plan that will give programs six weeks of preseason practice in preparation for the season, assuming COVID-19 local and state health policies are considered at the institutional level.
Most teams will open the season on Sept. 5, meaning those that play on that date will begin “summer access activities” on July 13, with meetings and walk-throughs beginning on July 24 and regular practices on Aug. 7.
The Utah Utes, BYU Cougars and Utah State Aggies all open their seasons on Sept. 3, and it’s expected that their first summer access date will be a few days before July 13 to account for that. The Utes and Cougars will open against each other at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, while the Aggies will play the Washington State Cougars in Logan that night.
“This is the culmination of a significant amount of collaboration in our effort to find the best solution for Division I football institutions,” Shane Lyons, chairman of the committee and director of athletics at West Virginia, said in a statement. “Our student-athletes, conference commissioners, coaches and health and safety professionals helped mold the model we are proposing.”
For the first 10 days of activities, the NCAA says student-athletes “may be required to participate in up to eight hours of weight training, conditioning and film review per week (no more than two hours may be spent on film review per week).”
In the next segment of the calendar, that moves to 20 hours per week, but no more than four hours per day. Eight hours can be spent on weight training and conditioning, six on walk-throughs, which may include the use of a football and six for meetings.
Student-athletes are required to get at least two days off during this two-week period.
No adjustments have been made to the 29-day preseason practice period, which will include the typical five-day acclimatization period and allow for up to 25 on-field practices.
“Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, we believe this model provides institutions and their student-athletes flexibility to prepare for the upcoming season,” Lyons said.
In May, the NCAA granted schools the ability to open their facilities for voluntary individual workouts starting on June 1. BYU opened its facilities to players on that day, while Utah and Utah State did so on June 15. The Utes opened facilities up to student-athletes in a number of sports, while the Aggies started with just football players as the first step of a phased approach.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said in May during a webinar with the Pac-12 Conference that he hoped to get at least six weeks of preparation time with his team before the season opener against the Cougars.
“You know we’ve talked as coaches in the conference and the sentiment has been that six weeks would be a minimum and we think that is something we could live with,” he said. “If we are presented with less than that, then we need to adjust accordingly.
When you take spring ball out of the equation, the typical lead in is eight weeks with training in the summer and then four weeks of fall camp. That seems to be the consensus among the rest of the coaches as well is that a six-week lead-in would be adequate.”