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