The College Football Playoff management committee will discuss delaying the 2021 event when it meets Wednesday afternoon, according to sources with knowledge of the agenda.
The move to formally discuss a delay – it’s on the agenda – came at the request of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott but, sources said, does not indicate a change is imminent.
To this point, the committee has shown a strong preference for keeping the semifinals on Jan. 1 (the Rose and Sugar bowls) and the national championship on Jan. 11 (in Miami).
“They’re talking about anything and everything,’’ CFP executive director Bill Hancock said (via email) of the management committee, which consists of the 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
“Larry did suggest considering the dates of the games, which is certainly in the ‘anything and everything’ universe.”
The topic gained attention last week after COVID-19 issues forced a spate of cancellations in Power Five conferences and two commissioners, the SEC’s Greg Sankey and the Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby, were asked about moving the event into the second half of January.
At the time, neither Sankey or Bowlsby indicated there was substantial momentum for a delay.
“We’re all going to have to be flexible,” Sankey said. “So I’m not going to hypothesize about change, but I’m not inattentive to the potential that change may need to occur.”
Asked if including a possible delay on this week’s agenda suggested a change in sentiment, Hancock said:
“It’s more a matter of responsible managers doing what’s right by considering all options and evaluating the circumstances, which the management committee has done all along.”
Through a spokesperson, Scott declined to comment.
A delay would seemingly benefit the Pac-12 more than other conferences because of its late start and limited schedule, which could leave its champion with fewer data points for the committee to evaluate.
The Pac-12’s most-likely playoff contenders, USC and Oregon, would finish the season with a maximum of seven games played.
Many teams in the ACC and Big 12 have already hit that total – Clemson and Notre Dame have played eight – while the SEC is expected to produce contenders with at least nine games on their resumes.
The management committee considered an expansion of the playoff for this season, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions, but the idea was shelved.
Both issues – expansion and delay – are fraught with uncertainties brought by the pandemic and logistical hurdles created by the event’s neutral-site structure.
A delay into late January likely wouldn’t happen without the Power Five committing to a tectonic calendar shift: Regular-season games would be added and the conference championship games pushed into early 2021.
Multiple sources describe a calendar move as unlikely.
Commissioners are hopeful that the pace of cancellations and postponements will slow once students head home for Thanksgiving, not to return until early 2021.
With the campuses largely empty, the theory goes, the likelihood of transmission will decrease and teams won’t face the case counts and quarantine issues that have disrupted schedules this month.
“(Scott) is doing what he thinks is in the best interest of the conference,” a source said, “but he’s not optimistic.”
You can reach Jon Wilner via email at email@example.com. Find his Pac-12 newsletter here.
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