The 2020 college football season is unlikely to go on as planned. What alternatives are being discussed? How will they impact Rice football?
The sports world is on pause as the globe works through a pandemic that has left chaos in its wake. When can we play ball again isn’t the most important question that needs to be answered now, but a return to sports, to a unifying cause, would be a welcome distraction.
For that reason, contingency plans are being worked. Possibilities upon possibilities are being propagated. Rice football, like everyone else, waits for a resolution. Here’s what I’m hearing about potential options for the upcoming college football season.
When will the season start?
Playing the season as planned with kickoffs beginning in late August is the first, and most tenuous scenario. The next would be a delayed start. That could involve pushing games back several weeks and continuing the regular season through December. More drastic still, a third option is gaining traction: football in the spring.
Multiple sources have mentioned a growing sentiment in the industry toward a much later start date. College football is the monetary engine that drives so many athletic programs. The ramifications of a lost season could be potentially devastating. Even though the offset would inevitably cause challenges of its pow, playing later in the academic calendar would absolutely be on the table.
Potential schedule adjustments
Different states have been impacted by the coronavirus to varying degrees of severity. Individual governors have passed their own stay-at-home-orders and various public safety initiatives. Gathering together a conference that runs from Texas to Virginia will be an arduous task and Conference USA won’t be alone in that struggle. Every conference consists of members from a half dozen states, if not more.
Alternative schedules and games with and without fans are on the table. Quite frankly, everything is on the table. Here are three possibilities that I found most interesting.
1. Conference games only
If the season can be delayed and truncated, Rice would play some component of C-USA teams, possibly just those currently on their schedule. Nonconference games (vs Army, vs Houston, vs Lamar, vs LSU) would be canceled.
2. Semi-regionalized scheduling
The last two ideas seem like longshots, but nothing has been predictable over the course of the last month and a half.
A long-rumored intermingling between Conference USA and Sun Belt teams has been floated around. In that scenario, the C-USA West and the Sun Belt would “merge” for the 2020 season, allowing for reduced travel and a more localized footprint. The lack of any major TV considerations might make this plan more viable than Option 3.
3. Texas-only scheduling
What if Texas is able to return to football but nearby states can’t? That could prohibit Option 1 and Option 2 from taking place. The only alternative remaining that included the possibility of college football would be an all-Texas league.
The logistics to be navigated would be unimaginably complicated, but even in-state powers like Texas and Texas A&M have financial considerations that would make not playing football this season a major problem. Likewise, ESPN, Fox and others would prefer to televise some football games rather than no football games.
If all of those parties can thread the needle — and that’s what it would take — the results could be spectacular. For one year we could be looking at an All-Texas Conference split like this:
- West | Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas State, UTSA, and UTEP
- East | Texas A&M, Baylor, North Texas, SMU, Houston and Rice
All of this comes with a massive caveat. “There is no clarity right now for anyone,” a source familiar with these discussions told me. Right now, these ideas are just ideas, albeit ideas that have started to circulate within the college football community.
My two cents: if there’s any feasible way to bring together an all-Texas league for just one year. Please, someone make it happen. Have any theories or ideas? Leave them in the comments.
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