What options might KU football have if nonconference games are eliminated from the 2020 schedule?


Kansas head coach Les Miles watches his players against Texas during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Kansas head coach Les Miles watches his players against Texas during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP) by Associated Press

With college football schedules being reshaped and shifted on an almost daily basis right now, it’s time to take a look at what options Kansas might have if the winds of change blow through the Big 12 Conference.

Big Ten officials announced Thursday that they were eliminating nonconference games for 2020, making the Big Ten the first of the Power Five conferences to address its football schedule for the 2020 season.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday afternoon that he believed it was still too early to make that sort of decision.

“The Big Ten decisions are interesting and provide additional information to inform our discussions,” Bowlsby later told the Associated Press. “At this time our medical and scientific advisors have suggested we should move ahead slowly and with constant re-evaluation. We plan to continue to prepare for all available scenarios until we are informed that some are no longer viable.”

It remains to be seen exactly what the Big Ten’s move will mean, but it's impact is already being felt across the country. Twitter was buzzing with reports quoting officials from mid-major conferences who now must adjust their own schedules and finances as a result. And fans of all programs and conferences were wondering aloud how this might impact their favorite teams.

We know the Big Ten's move will wipe out three non-conference games for all 14 league schools. But would those games be eliminated altogether or could they be replaced by filling out the rest of the schedule with other conference foes?

Remember, it’s television dollars that are the most important thing for athletic departments right now, and it’s not hard to imagine them filling the open dates with better conference games, perhaps creating better travel scenarios in the process.

For example, since Ohio State would be losing games with Bowling Green, Oregon and Buffalo, the Big Ten could elect to replace those foes with Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.

None of those three Big Ten teams currently appear on the Buckeyes’ 2020 schedule, and all are within driving distance and would enhance OSU’s strength of schedule rating.

In the Big 12 Conference, where round-robin scheduling rules the day, no such options exist.

So what are the possibilities? Here’s a look.

• There has been chatter about Big 12 teams playing each other more than once this season. While that idea seemed a bit crazy when it first came up, it’s becoming more practical by the day.

For Kansas, wiping New Hampshire, Boston College and Coastal Carolina off the schedule would make the Jayhawks’ 2020 slate much more difficult.

In the interest of taking advantage of geography, KU would replace those games with a second matchup against Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, the three Big 12 schools located closest to Lawrence.

All three are already on the schedule, but adding them again would be easy. You play one game at home and the other on the road.

While that still would seem a bit weird, it’s not like it would be unheard of. First of all, it happens every year in men’s and women’s basketball. Beyond that, each of the games would bring new challenges and a completely different feel, particularly if they came 6-8 weeks after the first meeting.

One thing worth remembering here is the fact that the decision to play the 2020 nonconference games as currently scheduled is not entirely up to Kansas and the Big 12. New Hampshire and Boston College would be coming a long way to play in Lawrence and the two programs might not want to do that or might not be able to.

• Geography plays a key role in the second option, as well.

And this one might be a little easier on KU’s schedule.

If the New Hampshire, Boston College and Coastal Carolina games are wiped out, KU could easily look around the region and find three opponents within driving distance who are willing to fill those dates.

Missouri State’s an option. Although the Bears are an FCS school.

Depending on what the Big Ten decides to do, Nebraska and Iowa could be options, too.

And then there’s Arkansas, Arkansas State and Tulsa, which are all drivable destinations.

The point here is to get the best game you can get while making ease of travel the top priority. Finding opponents nearby won’t be hard. But finding flexibility in the schedule could be.

One thing to consider here is that this could be an option if the powers that be elected to mix and match the first two options, too.

For example, Tulsa is a heck of a lot closer to Lawrence than Lubbock, Texas. So maybe instead of playing a full nine games against Big 12 foes this season, KU just plays the ones that are drivable and replaces the rest with regionally friendly contests.

From a Big 12 standpoint, this would be by far the easiest option for West Virginia, which is much closer to a whole bunch of schools not in the Big 12 than it is its closest Big 12 foes. The idea of playing three conference foes twice is not ideal for WVU.

• That brings us to our final option. And it might be one that West Virginia has to consider even if the rest of the Big 12 Conference is able to find replacements, should it come to that.

The 2020 college football season simply could be shortened.

Instead of 12 games, KU plays just nine this season. You’d still have a Big 12 title game and a conference champion, you’d just lose out on some of that television money.

All things considered, that’s not the worst outcome. After all, 75% of $33 million is still a pretty good chunk of change.

Besides, the first two scenarios would take some serious effort to pull off on the fly and aren’t guaranteed to work anyway.

There surely are more options than these in play (including no football at all this fall) and administrators are no doubt working on many different scenarios as we speak. These were just a few that came to mind.

No matter what happens, it’s going to be interesting to watch it play out.


David Robinett 1 year, 3 months ago

I submit that one option is to win Big 12 games.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 3 months ago

How many wins to become bowl eligible?

Steve Corder 1 year, 3 months ago

It’s about money and financial survival. Wins and loses are not top priority this year.

Dennis Strick 1 year, 3 months ago

I agree with Coach Mangino that decisions like the one made today by the BigTen and USC go a long way toward the elimination of the 2020/2021 Football season.

Len Shaffer 1 year, 3 months ago

I agree with Dennis, and THAT'S actually the final option: no games at all. I just don't see how it can work, with as contagious and unpredictable as the virus is and how much of a contact sport football is.

Creg Bohrer 1 year, 3 months ago

I doubt we see a football season at all and possibly no basketball.

Brian Wilson 1 year, 3 months ago

Might be a tough season but actually this could be of benefit to developing the team and players IMO. Anytime you play the same team twice you get the chance to make adjustments and learn from the previous game. From the otherside, its hard for good teams to learn much when beating the other team, they just come in with their system, and their players, and they just roll over you...but given a second chance, KU players would have time to think and adjust, change strategy, work on new techniques. Could be interesting at the very least.

Robert Brock 1 year, 3 months ago

Follow the lead of the B1G and cut out the non-conference games. Keep the powder dry for further game cancellations or postponements.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 3 months ago

Move forward as scheduled. If someone cancels find someone who is willing to play.

KU has never been worried about fans in the stand, so that is a moot point.

Find ways to play, not ways not to play.

If a player had the Flu, a cold (which is a Coronavirus), HIV, or other transmitted diseases, they would still play the game, let's not make exceptions to the rules.

Len Shaffer 1 year, 3 months ago

That's shortsighted on many levels, Jeff.

COVID-19 is much more contagious than the other diseases you mentioned -- just look at what's happening in MLS.

And with all the focus on how many people are dying, we're forgetting that there are other things that happen too. The WHO just said that 20% of the people who contract COVID have some type of organ damage. Is that really worth the risk just so we can be entertained?

Obviously it would be hard on the players to not get to play, but it would be worse on them if they end up with health complications for the rest of their lives.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 3 months ago

Actually, i didn't say do it as the risk of their lives. I said "Find ways to play".

I also think that many are taking a short-sighted approach by cancelling everything. I'm actually thinking long-term. If you have followed many of the camps across the country, many football programs including non-power 5 have had their players reporting. Approximately 8-12% of all players have been testing positive to COVID19 and not one of these individuals had any symptoms. By having football programs, there are about 10% of the population of 18-24 year old athletes that are getting medical care for this virus, whereas, without these programs, none of them would have received any care. I believe that the WHO report is associated with those that actually have been hospitalized for COVID.

However, the organ damage is not well documented. It is an estimate, it does not show how that compares to other similar viruses and their affects.

I believe also that when you put athletes on the field with the best medical staffs that these universities provide, they will get medical treatment beyond what many are getting in hospitals or normal doctor visits.

Indirectly, i think with football (and other sporting events) you will see people start returning to their home and are less likely to congregate into large arenas or large in-door facilities. This will reduce the interaction to people that do not regularly run into each other, increasing the ability for people to stay away from people that they don't run into frequently.

There are a lot of unknowns, but there are a lot of known items that can start returning to a monitored process. For instance, 85-125 players in healthy condition with extremely great medical staffs is a good place to start.

1 year, 3 months ago

jeff: r u a dr? no, ur a dumb@$$ put ur son & daughters out on the field, not mine or anyone elses. 'the cold' lol - pull ur head out ur @$$ u dumb GOPr. this is about dollars & cents, not health. there will be no football (& likely basketball, too) this year. yes, it sucks, but life aint fair & these kids should NOT be guinea pigs. enjoy your life! 😆✌️

Michael Maris 1 year, 3 months ago

Hey Pizza Pizza,

Have you watched any UFC/MMA lately on ESPN?

I'm pretty sure that's as (if not more) physical and even closer social distancing than a lot of NCAA or NFL Football players will be.

And, football helmets can be fitted with clear flexible plastic faceshields (under the facemask cage). You know, just like the clear plastic shields that are at a lot of cashier checkout locations.

Just food for thought Pizza Pizza.

Chris Bailey 1 year, 3 months ago

So what you’re saying is when you’re not selling the worlds worst pizza, you’re a doctor? Got it. I do enjoy the attacks on conservatism it shows the true color of a radical leftist. I’m sure you were a Bernie bro too. Something for nothing, such great policy. We can’t all live in our parents basements. Some of us work on the front lines each and every day with nothing more than a cloth mask to protect us so please don’t try and preach to a healthcare professional about something you yourself don’t have the guts to stand up to face.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 3 months ago

I am not a doctor, nor in my post did i profess to being one. I also didn't use profane language to drive a point.

I never said to put people on the field without safety measures. Remember that these players get the best medical staffs to care for them. 8-12% of football players reporting across the nation have had COVID 19 (12 of 112 at KU), none have reported symptoms. If it wasn't for football these 12 would have received 0 health care for this virus, unless if severe symptoms had come up later and that would potentially been to late.

What i am saying is that we find ways to play with the flu and I use the example of "the common cold" because it is a coronavirus that does not have a vaccine. Most flu vaccines take 12-18 YEARS to develop.

I realize that I am one of the few people that think that we have to start evaluating ways to get things going again, and not just stopping. Stopping actually hasn't reduced the spread of the virus. In fact, the whole shutdown was to smooth the curve, not to eliminate the spread of the virus.

I pray everyday that this will eradicated, but I'm also one that believes that we have to figure out ways to overcome adversity. I would tell you if your son and daughter don't want to play...don't. I would also tell you that envisioning a way to try to overcome these situations and make them happen in tough times is not easy; however, when you throw out ultimatums you aren't looking for solutions, you have already decided your outcome.

1 year, 3 months ago

matt: have u considered there should be no football this year? what does dr fauci think? lets play large, close contact sports during a PANDEMIC?! get real. cmon. embarassing article as it will be replaced in 3 weeks with: big12 football season cancelled. like it should be.

Matt Tait 1 year, 3 months ago

And in three weeks we'll write an article reacting to that decision if it happens. Sports coverage happens in real time and is a 24/7 proposition. We can't just ignore the ramifications of a big decision because it might not matter in the long run.

As of the time I wrote this story, there were still games on KU's schedule. So we analyze things in that reality and adjust and move forward when things change.

And, to answer your question, yes I absolutely have considered the ideas that there both should and should not be football this year. But no one pays me to make those kinds of decisions, only to report on the people who do.

Thanks for reading and for the comments.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 3 months ago

I'm not sure i understand this post. In many cases for the basketball case, you and LJW have written articles not reporting, but giving an opinion on what is going on. Here someone is asking for your opinion and you state you are only a reporter.

Again this would be a great time to stand up and give positive review and negative review of the potential decisions. Waiting until after the decision has been made to agree or disagree with the decision is "monday morning quarterbacking".

I really would like to see the positive idea of opening with football. For instance, as noted above. There have been 12 KU athletes already who have tested positive and without the sports, they would likely have never known they had it or would have never received treatment that could lead to ill affects later on. Again, I think there is true value in what the medical teams at KU and other sports programs are doing for these athletes.

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