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Your Guide To The Return Of College Football


College football is in a tenuous spot. Without one set reopening plan, some schools are bringing back their entire student body, while others are deciding which subset ought to be allowed an in-person semester. With coronavirus fears, travel restrictions, and disparate reopening plans, different athletic conferences each have their own plans for how to bring back sports for their student athletes and fans.

Every decision is subject to change as time goes on and we learn more about the Wuhan virus, but many conferences and schools have made tentative decisions as to how they’ll be handling fall sports, particularly the most popular of the bunch: football. Currently, Sports Illustrated has the betting odds for the return of college football at about 50-50. The announced plans of many major division 1 conferences, however, tells a more optimistic story.

We’re definitely not going to get the grand, interconference games of past years, nor is it likely that the championship, scheduled for January 11, 2021, will occur. However, if the current, cautious plans can come to fruition, there will be some college football for the many eager fans and student athletes.

Big Ten

The Big Ten is adopting conference-only for the fall season, meaning the 14 teams will only be playing each other. The oldest Division I sporting conference, Big 10 is home to some excellent and storied football rivalries, which will still continue under this regulation.

Big Ten Schools include: Indiana University, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and the University of Wisconsin.

However, affiliate but non-member Notre Dame will not qualify, which puts much of their season int0 question. Notre Dame, a passionate football school, is currently unsure of what fall 2020 will bring to their football program. Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told USA Today they’ll be bound both by the trajectory of the disease and choices other schools and conferences make.


Pac-12 has likewise gone conference-only for several four sports, including football, soccer (men’s and women’s), and women’s volleyball. PAC-12 was the second of the Power Five conferences to make this decision, following the lead of the Big Ten.

Along with the shift to conference only, PAC-12 schools will be shifting back the start date of mandatory athletic activities for teams, until they determine new safety measures for their student athletes.

PAC-12 commissioner Larry Scott was diagnosed with COVID-19 late last week, which the conference announced hours after releasing its plan for reopening.

The schools in the PAC 12 conference are: University of Arizona, Arizona State, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Oregon, Oregon State, University of Southern California, Stanford, University of Utah, University of Washington, and Washington State.

Atlantic Coast Conference

The ACC is taking its cue from the Big Ten and PAC-12, as they expect to go conference only for the 2020 fall season. However, nothing is set in stone at the moment.

Should ACC return for football in the fall, Notre Dame would be included on the roster. While Notre Dame is a member of the ACC, the school retains its independence in football, playing ACC schools while retaining affiliate membership to the Big Ten.

The Atlantic Coast Conference counts among its members: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Louisville, University of Miami, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Wake Forest.


The SEC has yet to decide how they will return in the fall, pushing off the decision to the end of July. SEC is home to last year’s College Football Playoff National Champions, Louisiana State University (LSU).

The schools in the SEC are: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt.

Big 12

The Big 12, like the SEC, has decided to hold off on making a decision. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby declared that it is too early to deciding, for the conference to see how COVID continues to spread.

The schools in the Big 12 are: Baylor, Iowa State, University of Kansas, Kansas State, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. Texas Christian University, University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech, and West Virginia University.

Ivy League

The Ivy League has declared that all of their fall sports will be halted until at least January, with the possibility of the holds continuing after then. There is a possibility of fall seasons being picked up in the spring, but no decision has been made. Likewise, it is unclear whether winter or spring sports will occur in the Ivy League.

It is unsurprising that the league made such decision, as many schools within the league have different reopening policies, many of which include having large subsets of their student bodies taking classes from home. The lack of consistency would render it nearly impossible to establish a stable sports structure, especially with many other schools going conference-only or outright cancelling.

Harvard University is bringing only 40 percent of its student body to live on campus while all classes will be virtual. Princeton University is inviting only freshmen and juniors back for the fall, while only sophomores and seniors will attend in person for the spring. Cornell University is set to bring all undergraduates back.

Schools in the Ivy League include: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.

Patriot League

The Patriot League, like the Ivys, has cancelled the fall season, with the fate of winter and spring sports left uncertain. Luckily, the fall seasons for West Point and the Naval Academy will be unaffected, as both play some sports outside of the Patriot League, and are thereby exempt from the ruling. Both plan on continuing to play with independently and the American Athletic Conference, respectively.

It is surprising that the Patriot League has cancelled their season outright rather than transitioning to conference-only. Some members, including Georgetown, are only bringing a select number of students back to campus, which would render it difficult to field an entire team.

The Patriot League consists of: American University, U.S. Military Academy, Boston University, Bucknell, Colgate, Fordham, Georgetown, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, Loyola University Maryland, and the U.S. Naval Academy.