The FCS Patriot League announced several protocols on Monday which seem likely to cancel some or all of the member institutions' non-conference football games, five of which are scheduled to be played against FBS opponents. Since no FBS conferences have laid out such measures, this would be the first FBS college football games canceled due to COVID-19.
Sports Illustrated — Among the league’s protocols announced Monday, which could have ripple effects felt in more prominent programs:
- Athletes would not return to campus before the general student body. Although not every Patriot League school has set its fall academic calendar, that decision makes it highly unlikely that a football team could complete the six-week preparation period in time for the start of the scheduled season opener, as set forth by the NCAA Division I Council, before playing any games. It likely would wipe out all pre-conference scheduling in the league.
- No Patriot League teams will fly to competitions and, with rare exceptions, regular-season competition will exclude overnight travel. That would certainly preclude Fordham from playing at Hawaii, and seemingly Colgate at Western Michigan (nearly a 600-mile drive, one-way).
While I find it unlikely measure this drastic will be taken in at least the Power Five conferences, we have already seen more than a handful of big programs — Clemson, Texas and Kansas State to name a few — which have returned to campus for summer workouts and already suffered breakouts. So these precautions from the patriot League might be more financially driven, but nobody really knows how anything is going to play out between now and August.
Western Michigan, Army, Navy, Hawaii and Syracuse all currently have non-conference games scheduled against Patriot League teams in 2020, so those schools will likely be looking for new opponents. But if other FCS conferences — and even the Group of Five conferences — follow the Patriot League's lead, the entire notion of playing non-conference games may be out the window for 2020, unless Power Five schools somehow scramble something together.
Maybe we could play some football version of the basketball non-conference challenges, but do it with all five. Something like that would likely take much more planning than the current timetable allows, but it sure would be something fun if it's possible, given that non-conference games against smaller schools are now in serious danger.
Just please give us some sort of college football. Please.