Pac-12 Coaches Say Not so Fast to January College Football Start

College football season remains fluid with discussions ongoing

A delay of the upcoming 2020 college football season until Jan. 1, 2021, or later isn't as likely as you might think, according to Pac-12 football coaches.

But, it's also not improbable. "I'll be honest with you, we've had these discussions," Arizona Head Coach Kevin Sumlin revealed on a Pac-12 Conference webinar Thursday. The uncertainty showcases how fluid any plans are because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

"After Jan. 1, you get into some other issues," Coach Sumlin explained plainly. California Head Coach Justin Wilcox and Oregon Head Coach Mario Cristobal, who both also participated in the webinar, agreed that the atypical, delayed season would come with a series of complications that many in college football would have to deal with for the first time.

(Pac-12 Football Coaches Webinar, clockwise from right: Oregon Head Coach Mario Cristobal, California Head Coach Justin Wilcox, Arizona Head Coach Kevin Sumlin, Pac-12 Networks Football Analyst Yogi Roth)

Understandably, top of mind for every head football coach on the webinar was the post-season. The Pac-12 football head coaches expressed concerns about how a delayed or compacted season might affect their chances at the national championship game. "You know, how does that affect the other conferences [and] the CFP?" Coach Wilcox asked rhetorically, referring to the College Football Playoff.

Coach Cristobal agreed with Coach Wilcox's concerns, before adding: "If everyone [were] held to the same standard and had the same regimen and structure, I would always be in favor of playing 12 football games."

Just this weekend, different states across the country are taking steps to reopen different parts of their economies from stay-at-home orders. And in the state of Arizona, major league professional sports can also begin operations, including training and play Friday, according to an announcement by Governor Doug Ducey earlier this week, with college sports likely not too far behind.

Additionally, the NCAA has yet to chime in on a coordinated nationwide start to the college football season, leaving the decision to individual conferences to "plan and model" for now, according to statements made by Pac-12 head coaches this week.

It's also unclear how a late start might affect college football players' eligibility. Should the 2020 season start next January, some student-athletes may end up playing 24 or more college football games within 12 months, assuming the 2021 college football season begins on time. Compounding the issue, some players may be graduating at the end of the coming fall semester or could be joining teams for the first time in January 2021.

The NCAA hasn't issued conferences any formal guidance or set any rules either way.

Worst still, more experienced players may not want to compete in a delayed 2020 season. "If the NFL doesn't change what they're doing, you know, you've got some guys that might be affected by the Combine or by the Draft," explained Coach Sumlin. "It's going to affect things for the next year, more so than people are talking about right now."