A Radical Scheduling Proposal For College Football In 2020-21

A Radical Scheduling Proposal For College Football In 2020-21
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Jul 10, 2020

Photo Credit: Jake Roth

College football is on the brink as the 2020 fall season is at serious risk of at minimum, a postponement to the spring. From the Ivy League already doing so to the Big 10 announcing their plans to play a conference-only schedule and the ACC reportedly being among those set to follow suit, college football for the fall is understandably in serious danger of not happening.

One question that has understandably been raised by the Big 10's decision is what's the difference between Iowa travelling in state to play Iowa State or Iowa travelling farther to play Purdue, for instance.

If there is going to be college football in the fall, which under any plan looks more and more unlikely by the day, then a regionalized approach seems like the best option.

Of course, the lack of centralization in college football makes any strategy such as this almost impossible with conferences already turning on each other and seeming to abandon short-lived hopes of a unified approach.

However, we're going to live in a different world for a second where college football is unified and willing to make adaptions for a 2020-21 season that may look vastly different and require regionlized competition.

In our proposal, this brings the 7 biggest conferences (the Power 5 plus the American, Mountain West, Notre Dame, BYU, Army) together to form 11 conferences.

Each of these 11 conferences has anywhere from 7-10 teams with pairings based primarily on regions with as many existing conference structures preserved as possible. Overall, there is only one state (Indiana) that is represented in multiple conferences and only 4 out of 11 conferences with 5 or more states represented by their respective schools.

So here's a breakdown of my 2020-21 emergency conference proposal that could be implemented in an attempt to try to mitigate more risk for a fall season (or possibly spring if the season wanted to get started while a vaccine is hopefully being distributed).


  • Army
  • Boston College
  • Maryland
  • Navy
  • Penn State
  • Pittsburgh
  • Rutgers
  • Syracuse
  • Temple


  • Virginia Tech
  • Clemson
  • Duke
  • East Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • N.C. State
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Wake Forest


  • Florida
  • Florida State
  • Georgia
  • Georgia Tech
  • Miami
  • UCF
  • USF

Deep South

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Auburn
  • LSU
  • Mississippi State
  • Ole Miss
  • Tulane

Red River

  • Baylor
  • Houston
  • Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma State
  • SMU
  • Texas
  • Texas A&M
  • TCU
  • Tulsa


  • Kentucky
  • Louisville
  • Memphis
  • Missouri
  • Notre Dame
  • Tennessee
  • Vanderbilt
  • West Virginia

Rust Belt

  • Cincinnati
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Michigan State
  • Northwestern
  • Ohio State
  • Purdue

Great Plains

  • Iowa
  • Iowa State
  • Kansas
  • Kansas State
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Wisconsin


  • Air Force
  • Arizona
  • Arizona State
  • Colorado
  • Colorado State
  • New Mexico
  • Wyoming

Southern Pacific

  • California
  • Fresno State
  • Nevada
  • San Diego State
  • San Jose State
  • Stanford
  • UCLA
  • UNLV
  • USC

Pacific Mountain

  • Boise State
  • BYU
  • Oregon
  • Oregon State
  • Utah
  • Utah State
  • Washington
  • Washington State

The proposal would involve teams playing 6-8 games this fall from mid to late September to mid December, providing enough flexibility for teams to not compete during exam weeks and for postponements and cancellations. The greater regionalization and lessening of state overlaps allow these conferences to operate with easier colloaboration between fewer state governments with the hope of consistent procedures across all conferences still in following CDC rules.

After the regular season is completed, a 16-game playoff over six weeks would kick off on New Year's Day at traditional bowl sites with teams operating in bubbles with neutral site games from there on out. The 16 teams would come from the 11 division winners and 5 at-large teams with no one team playing more than 12 games, alleviating concerns about potential atypical physical weardown from too many games within a calendar year.

This would also require the postponement of the NFL Draft deadline to the end of February and the NFL Combine to the end of March. Additionally, the playoff would have no games during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. The semifinals and championship would be played on the weekends on either side of the Super Bowl.

There are some downsides to this as it would hurt those schools in FBS outside these seven conferences though the MAC is more regional anyway, and the Sun Belt and Conference USA could come together to assemble their own temporary conferences based on region. Additionally, there would be a couple schools who may be in over their heads like Tulane in a division with 6 SEC West teams.

But for one year, this is a plan that would not only simplify things among programs that likely can afford the same standards of testing but would also limit travel distances and in many cases, allow most teams to drive to and from games on gamedays, allowing for somewhat of a bubble, or at least taking some more risks out and creating a little more opportunity. This structure could also be used for other fall sports like soccer, cross country, and field hockey though may have to be modified some based on school offerings.

We would also see plenty of quality regional matchups and see many rivalries preserved and even a few return for a year like Texas-Texas A&M.

Is something like this going to happen? Unfourtnately, the odds of that are 0 but if it could, it would probably have a better chance of leading to college football in the fall than other proposals.