If you’re an avid college football fan like Coach Rick, the NCAA’s recent decision was like the Gimbels manager’s announcement that Santa was coming in Will Ferrell’s Elf. Watch it and you’ll know what I mean.

The NCAA’s Division I Council recently announced that it will not extend its ban on in-person activities. That ban is scheduled to expire on May 31. By not extending, the NCAA is clearing the way for its member schools to begin conducting voluntary on-campus workouts.

You know what the means … the 2020 NCAA football season is coming!

The Plan

College football programs are now allowed to hold voluntary workouts on campus beginning June 1. This is actually typical of any other season where players report back to campus after the spring semester to participate in summer workouts. 

Some schools, like Wyoming, have already announced they will be back on June 1. Wyoming has reported only 776 cases of the virus and only 10 deaths. Ohio State will bring back players on June 8 and it is expected that roughly three-fourths of the 130 FBS programs will be back on campus by June 15.

The NCAA’s plan to give teams the necessary preparation for the upcoming season would include allowing for mandatory team workouts beginning in early July. Then, sometime in mid- to late-July, teams would begin a training period of six weeks.

The first two weeks would consist of NFL-like OTAs (organized team activities), which are essentially glorified walk-throughs where players can wear helmets only. The remaining four weeks would be used for a more traditional training camp.

The idea is to give teams ample preparation time for the season. Remember, when the COVID-19 crisis shut down just about everything, 52 of the 130 FBS football programs had not even started spring practice.

The Schedule

The college football schedule is set to kickoff with Week Zero on August 29. The NCAA is planning on sticking to the original schedule. Teams that play in Week Zero – there are seven games on the schedule – can begin their OTAs on July 18. All other teams would start on July 25.

Week 1 would begin on Thursday, September 3, with a number of games including Clemson at Georgia Tech and the “Holy War,” BYU at Utah.

The Problems

There are issues with the 2020 college football season going off without a hitch.

The big problem, of course, is states that have yet to reopen.

Delaware, Illinois, and New Jersey still remain completely closed with another ten that have only opened certain regions of their states. Four of those states are home to 15 FBS programs – California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

What happens if a school, say Rutgers, cannot start practice until mid-August because of state mandates? With states in different stages of reopening, it’s safe to assume that not all schools will start their OTAs and training camps at the same time. 

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott wants the NCAA and all 130 FBS programs to come up with a universal playing date. That’s because exactly one-half of his conference’s teams are in California and Washington, two states that have some of the most stringent stay-at-home orders.

The California state university system – which does not include any of the Pac-12 schools – has already made the decision to have fall classes online. If students are not back on campus, it’s unlikely there would be any fall sports at those schools.

Most conference commissioners are on board with playing even without all of their member schools back in action. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has stated that if 40 of 50 states are clear to compete, everyone would play.

West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons shares that viewpoint. He, like many of his peers, feels that schools that are ready to play will not wait for others. If 80 percent of the Big 12 is ready to go, Lyons believes they will play. So does West Virginia president Gordon Gee, who has said of his Mountaineers, “We are going to play football in the fall. Even if I have to suit up.”

About the Author

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.

His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.

When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.

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