As the Power 5 conferences continue to navigate the return of fall sports amid the coronavirus pandemic, and more decisions could be made this week about what that might look like for college football, it’s plausible each league’s plan is ultimately different — and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN on Monday that can work.
“They can’t be incompatible,” Bowlsby said, “but they don’t have to be identical.”
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced a conference-only schedule model for this fall — if there’s a season — but with one glaring difference, as the Pac-12 also delayed the start of its season.
Meanwhile, officials in the Big 12 and SEC have remained hopeful they can still play a full, 12-game schedule — while paying close attention to what the ACC might announce Wednesday after a meeting of its university presidents and chancellors.
Like every conference, the ACC has been considering various scheduling models, but its unique contractual agreement with Notre Dame, which already includes six games against the Irish — along with its four ACC/SEC rivalry games — makes its options unique. Any scheduling model needs approval from the ACC board of directors, which is comprised of all 15 presidents and chancellors.
“We do intend to finalize a plan this Wednesday,” said NC State president Randy Woodson. “I’m a good soldier, so I’m excited to be a part of the ACC and follow through with whatever plan is approved on Wednesday.”
The Big 12 and SEC are likely to be poised to react quickly if need be, but Bowlsby said both leagues have games against each other that they would still like to play. Ole Miss is tentatively set to face Baylor on Sept. 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston. Texas is at LSU on Sept. 12, the same weekend Tennessee is at Oklahoma. Vanderbilt is also at Kansas State on Sept. 19.
“They’re still looking to play the 12-game schedule and so are we,” Bowlsby said of the SEC. “Obviously if one of us would make the decision to go to conference-only, that would affect the others. I’m guessing we would get some advance notice on that, but nobody has made that decision yet — at least not among the [SEC, ACC or Big 12].”
Conference commissioners at every level, along with athletic directors, have stressed that their decisions continue to be made based on the advice of their medical experts, along with the guidelines of their state and local leaders in response to the coronavirus trends. If at any point they are advised to come to a screeching halt as they did this past spring, all interviews indicate they would comply. As July comes to a close, and the traditional preseason camp is scheduled to begin Aug. 7, the next major question to be answered is whether the season will start on time.
It’s possible that decision is made by Friday — or it could simply be an uneventful green light to continue to full practices to evaluate what that experience is like as the rest of the student populations begin to descend on campuses. As of Monday afternoon, Bowlsby said his conference is “not planning for a delayed season at this point.”
“Other models other than playing a regular 12-game schedule are fallbacks,” he said. “We’ll go to fallbacks when we’re forced to go to fallbacks.”