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Proposed New CFB Calendar Calls to Move Season Earlier, Alter Recruiting Guidelines

A potential new schedule, crafted by the 10 FBS conferences, would change the entirety of the college football calendar and its transfer and recruiting dates.

A proposal to revamp the 365-day college football calendar calls for leaders to further examine moving up the start of the regular season as well as the bowl season.

The proposed calendar, a collaboration of the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame, would also create new dead periods, permit the off-campus recruitment of high school juniors, shift back the early signing date and provide more of a framework around the recruitment of transfers.

However, maybe the most significant item is the notion that officials need to “further explore potentially making Week 0 fully permissive,” the calendar notes. Under current rules, teams need a waiver to play a game during what’s termed “Week 0,” the weekend before the official start to the season. In another proposed change, bowl games would be permitted to start the second Saturday in December—a week earlier than normal.

The nine-page calendar is being circulated around athletic departments for feedback and further examination. Sports Illustrated obtained a copy of the document, which is only a draft proposal and has not worked its way through the NCAA legislative approvals process.

In fact, there are plenty of hurdles left before the calendar is finalized, most notably a collaboration with officials on the NCAA Football Oversight Committee, who themselves have been working on a separate recruiting calendar. Officials with knowledge of the discussions caution that changes to the 365-day calendar are likely.

The calendar’s most striking component—opening up Week 0 to all schools—is not a new topic, but its inclusion in the proposal speaks to the serious nature of the possibility. Eleven games involving FBS teams were played on Week 0 this year, including Northwestern’s win over Nebraska in Ireland. Waivers to play on Week 0 are granted for various reasons, most notably for those teams that play at Hawaii, an incentive for programs to travel to such a remote location. If the waiver process is eliminated, teams could host recruits for home games played on Week 0, the calendar says.

The move to turn Week 0 into Week 1 is a key discussion point among conference commissioners who are attempting to solidify details on an expanded College Football Playoff, something SI reported in a story two weeks ago.

While opening the door for teams to have an additional bye week, lifting the Week 0 waiver process could be the first step in a move to eventually shift up a week the entire regular season. The change would expand a tight December window in which to play additional playoff games, alleviating a cramped timeline that includes conference championship games, NFL regular-season games (some played on Saturday), midyear exams and graduation. Earlier this month, SI examined six biggest issues in expanding the Playoff, none more significant and complicated than the calendar.

Moving bowl games up a week is another sign in the eventual forward shift of the entire season. This year, the first bowl game is scheduled to kick off on Dec. 16. If the proposed calendar were implemented, bowls could start as soon as Dec. 10, the date of the annual Army-Navy game. Moving bowls up provides a larger window to play the 42 bowls as well as the additional playoff games.

But at the center of the calendar is recruiting. In one of the biggest recruiting changes, the calendar permits coaches to visit with high school juniors off campus. Under current rules, coaches cannot have contact with non-seniors away from campus.

In the collaboration process with the NCAA Football Oversight Committee, this particular concept is meeting scrutiny. Officials are discussing whether to retain the current rule and prohibit junior contact off campus.

The document proposes adjustments to other recruiting periods and recruiting rules partly as a reaction to heavy transfer movement. In a recent policy change, athletes can now transfer once during their careers and play immediately if they enter the transfer portal during two designated windows. The 45-day fall window starts Dec. 5. A 15-day spring window starts May 1.

Other recruiting changes include:

  • The addition of a 48-hour dead period preceding the fall transfer portal, scheduled this year for Nov. 27 and 28. The intent of the dead period is to allow coaching staffs to meet with their current players before the portal opens. In a collaborative effort with the oversight committee, officials are discussing whether to expand this dead period from two days to more like a week.
  • Moving the start of the early signing period back five days to the third Monday in December. The document lists the first day of the period as Dec. 19 this year and Dec. 18 in 2023. The early signing period dates can be changed by the Division I commissioners.
  • Prohibiting coaches visiting transfers on campus of the player’s current school or at a residence where other members of the transfer’s current team reside.
  • The addition of a recruiting dead period during the Memorial Day Weekend, May 27 to 31 of next year.

In addition to those proposed changes, the document includes a notation about “re-evaluating” the FBS rules-making process. Conference leaders want FBS officials to have a “greater ability to modernize the college game” both in terms of governance rules and playing rules, the document says. This comes on the heels of last week’s LEAD1 summit in Washington, D.C., where roughly 100 FBS athletic directors decided to keep its governance under the NCAA umbrella as long as they have more policy making powers.

Overhauling the college football calendar was an effort led by the ACC and commissioner Jim Phillips, who was against expanding the College Football Playoff before the completion of the calendar. Each league appointed a representative to a working group that met over the spring and summer.

In a summit in mid-August in Dallas, the working group invited several football officials from the 10 leagues to review the calendar now being disseminated across college football. The implementation date on the calendar is November 2022 and it runs through December ’23. That timeline is subject to change, officials say. Commissioners are expected to discuss the calendar during meetings next week in Chicago.

The approval process starts with a recommendation from the working group to the NCAA Football Oversight Committee. Oversight would then recommend the changes to the NCAA DI Council for adoption. 

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