What Happens to Bowls if College Football Season is Shortened?

Brett Friedlander

These are uncertain times for the movers and shakers of college football.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already decided to play a conference only schedule in response to the worsening COVID-19 outbreak while the ACC and SEC are still weighing options on how to proceed.

While none of the possibilities are particularly appealing, at least commissioner John Swofford and his Power Five counterparts have a say in how or if the 2020 season will play out.

Those involved with college football's postseason bowl system don't have the same luxury.

The fate of their games are at the mercy of others. Until all the decisions are made and the landscape is defined, all they can do is go forward with preparations and hope for the best.

"It really is a challenge for everybody," said Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan, an NC State graduate who was a walkon on Coach Norm Sloan's basketball teams from 1974-77.

There are currently 43 bowls on the 2020-21 schedule, including three as part of the College Football Playoff. The ACC has tie-ins that guarantee its teams and Notre Dame at least 10 spots in the postseason, with several other contingencies in case more teams than that qualify.

How many of those games are actually played and what criteria will be used for bowl eligibility with the length of a shortened season differing from conference to conference are as up in the air as every other aspect of the season right now.

Legislation is currently being considered by the NCAA's College Football Oversight Committee to address some of the logistical issues.

Despite the uncertainty, Stokan remains optimistic that there will be a postseason even if it's determined that fans won't be allowed to attend the games. Especially as it pertains to the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six, of which his bowl is a part.

"Starting at the top, the process will remain the same for the College Football Playoff selection committee," he said. "They'll take the best four teams to play in the playoff and then they'll slot (the rest of the New Year's Six)."

As for the other bowls, Stokan said the decision to play or not will likely come down to a matter of dollars and cents.

"The way you've got to make a bowl work is you have to maximize your three 'Ts' -- your title sponsor, your ticket sales and your TV revenues," he said. "Obviously ESPN controls the TV rights to most of the bowl games and they're going to want the bowl games to be played, because their ratings are higher and they make more revenue over those two weeks than any other time of the year.

"I think everybody wants the bowls to happen. Even without fans, I think there will be some scenario where there are bowl games that are played."

The bowls, however, are only half of the equation for Stokan and his counterpart Danny Morrison in Charlotte with the newly named Duke's Mayo Bowl.

dukes mayo classic

Both of their organizations are also staging early-season made-for-TV showcase games that may or may not be played because of the moving target the start of the 2020 season has become.

Wake Forest and Notre Dame are scheduled to play in the Duke's Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium on Sept. 26.

"We are preparing for the fall as scheduled with the Duke’s Mayo Classic, ACC Football Championship and Duke’s Mayo Bowl," Morrison said. "However, we are prepared to adjust if changes are made by our conference, school or facility partners due to COVID-19.”

Morrison is fortunate in at least one respect, since his organization has until at late September before its game is scheduled.

cfa kickoff sked

Stokan's Peach Bowl is dealing with more urgency, considering that in addition to having less time to wait things out, it is also staging three games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic -- Florida State-West Virginia on Sept. 5, Virginia-Georgia on Sept. 7 and North Carolina-Auburn on Sept. 12.

It's a situation that has Stokan and his staff scrambling.

"We thought it was going to be a challenge this year to run three Kickoff games in a week, which has never been done in college football history," Stokan said. "We spent the last week since July 4 talking to all six ADs and their departments about different scenarios.

"Then we've got a meeting coming up with Mercedes-Benz to go through stadium protocols, costs, are we going to wear masks, are we going to take temperatures, is there going to be bags, clear bags, parking, tailgate parking -- are we going to social distance that, social distance ticketing. There's a lot of things to do. Step-by-step we just do what we need to do in preparation that we're going to play all three games starting Sept. 5."

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