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Football Scheduling: a COVID lesson

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Turns out creating college football schedules isn’t so difficult.

In 2025, the USC Trojans will host the Ole Miss Rebels at The Coliseum. This was announced earlier this year, in May. The true freshmen currently on the USC roster this year will be 5th-year seniors when the game is played.

In 2030, the Ohio State Buckeyes will go down to Athens and play the Georgia Bulldogs. The series was announced on November 7th, 2019. The seniors playing in that game are currently, in 2020, 12 years old.

In 2031, the Border War between Missouri and kansas will start back up. Announced in May of this year, the freshmen on both rosters are currently in the 3rd grade.

And on November 1st of last year, Alabama and Virginia Tech decided to play once again, this time in 2034. It was a huge announcement for all the four-year old football fans of the Crimson Tide and Hokies, who will be playing in that game.

You get the idea.

There’s a lot of crazy, odd aspects of college football and the way that it’s run. Partially because it’s a billion-dollar industry, and partially because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

The quirk of scheduling games 15 years in advance is neither one of those.

I’ve never worked in an athletic department and have never had to deal with the...stress?...of trying to craft a schedule for all of my teams. So I’ll admit that there’s an obvious blind spot that I’m operating in. But...seriously...why do Athletic Directors have to schedule these games so far in advance? Yes, there are some great games that get on the books - Ohio State-Georgia! Alabama-Virginia Tech! But they’re good games now, not 15 years from now. Ryan Day, Kirby Smart, Nick Saban, and Justin Fuente will very likely not be around when these games are played and there’s no rule stipulating that these teams will continue to be any good.

Cut to 2020: thanks to COVID, conferences and athletic departments had to scrap all their plans for the football season and rework the schedules in less than a month. P5 teams (mostly) play within their conference and the Group of 5 has been busy working to play anybody who’d be willing to travel and play. Houston and Baylor scheduled - and cancelled - a game all within five days. Georgia Southern called up UMass and paid them $60,000 to come out of hibernation and get destroyed...all within a 3-week timeframe.

The point is, we’re learning this year that there’s no need to schedule games that far out. With a little motivation and drive, athletic departments are able to work with each other to figure something out within a few weeks. And, in non-COVID seasons, schools would only need to schedule four games instead of, ya know, an entire schedule.

Because there is no centralized governing body that is in charge of college football (yet) none of this will ever change. But, if we ever did get one - or some governing body laid down some rules - I’d really like to see a rule stating that schools can’t schedule their next season until that year’s recruiting class is fully signed. So, the 2021 recruiting class finalizes all their signings in February, and at that point schools can schedule the 2021 season. Ya dig?

It would mean that all schools would be working to fill their non-cons at the same time and everyone would be willing to play nice and work to make something happen. It also means that when Georgia and Ohio State is announced, we know that both teams will be pretty similar to the product that we just saw the previous year.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from COVID to carry on once life returns to “normal” - wash your hands, don’t go into public places if you don’t feel well, etc - but of the minor lessons we’ve learned, I certainly hope ADs learn that you don’t have to schedule games impossibly far in advance.