The NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee has suggested a six-week period before returning to play, sources told Stadium.
The six-week period will not be officially recommended until the committee receives the necessary approval of the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel. That approval could come later this week, sources said. The six-week time frame, if formally approved, is significant because it would give universities a better indication of when exactly the college football season could start, a time frame that’s dependent on allowing students to return to campus this fall in the first place.
The season is scheduled to start Aug. 29 with seven games involving 12 FBS teams, meaning student-athletes would need to report around July 20 to get the necessary six weeks in. The remaining 118 FBS schools do not play their opener until the following week between Thursday, Sept. 3 and Monday, Sept. 7. Those schools would need to report around July 27.
If student-athletes are not able to return to campus by late July or early August, it’s likely that the season would not begin on time as scheduled.
Since the six-week guideline has not been formally approved, it’s unknown if the six-week period would be mandatory or whether football programs could receive exemptions to play with only four or five weeks to prepare since universities could be opening up fall classes on different dates.
“Right now, we’re progressing as if we can be playing football [as scheduled],” a source said. “But it’s like trying to predict the weather — you never know.”
A number of major universities around the country, including Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Washington State, have indicated they are “planning on” having on-campus classes in the fall, another sign that college football might be able to return this autumn.
“Are we on the right path with six weeks?” another source asked. “That would be optimal, but without the input of the medical experts, we don’t know for sure.”
On Monday, Florida coach Dan Mullen said SEC coaches would prefer to have eight weeks to prepare for a season, but he added that six weeks would work. Four weeks, he said, and “you’re pressing it.” Other coaches have recommended anywhere between four and 10 weeks to get players ready for games.
Once the timeframe is approved, then the Oversight Committee will work on determining what those six weeks would look like regarding strength and conditioning timeframes before returning to the field, number of practices allowed, the possibility of two-a-day practices and a multitude of other factors that may require tweaking/rewriting of some current NCAA rules.
“You don’t want to overreact, but we have to be prepared,” an industry source said. “You prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Five months [until the scheduled start of the season] is still a long time away.”