Big Ten, Pac-12 may align delayed football seasons for later bowl opportunities

Joey Kaufman
Ohio State last played in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019, defeating Washington 28-23. If the Big Ten and Pac-12 can work it out, the Buckeyes might have a chance to return to Pasadena, California, in late winter-early spring.

The uncertainty surrounding the Big Ten’s postponed football season extends to the postseason.

If the conference starts a season on Thanksgiving weekend, New Year’s Day or later in the winter, teams would not have opportunities to crash the College Football Playoff or earn bids to other bowl games.

So what would await teams at the end of a season staged in the spring semester? It’s too soon to tell, though Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott raised one possibility last week.

On a teleconference with reporters, Scott said he had spoken with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren about aligning their seasons, as they remain the only two major conferences to scrap games for this fall.

Joint seasons could allow for a staging of “traditional postseason opportunities” between the leagues, an idea advocated by Scott.

Bowl games that could serve as hosts for such matchups first need approval from the NCAA before rescheduling further into 2021, according to Nick Carparelli, the executive director of the Football Bowl Association.

The current window for bowl games is between Dec. 19 and Jan. 11, the latter being the date of the CFP championship game. But Carparelli does not think getting approval from the college sports governing body to reschedule would be a difficult hurdle to clear.

“We fully expect that they'll be very accommodating to any such waiver this year given how difficult things are,” Carparelli said. “If there's a bowl game that cannot be played in December for one reason or the other and wants to host the Big Ten-Pac-12 in the spring, I don't see much that's going to keep them from doing that.”

No bowl game had been scheduled to match teams from the Big Ten and the Pac-12 this year after the Redbox Bowl canceled its game last month.

The Holiday Bowl, which had featured matchups between the leagues since 2014 and saw Iowa defeat Southern California in San Diego last December, is now scheduled to host games featuring the Atlantic Coast Conference versus the Pac-12 in the coming years.

That leaves the conferences in need of willing hosts.

“The games that have two conference partners who are playing the spring, and those bowls who have one side in the spring, one in the fall, have tough decisions ahead of them to begin with,” Carparelli said. “But if the Pac-12 and Big Ten were to approach them with an option to play in the spring, I think some of them may be attracted to some of them. It would take that partnership between the bowl and those two conferences to make it happen.”

No hypothetical springtime bowl game would carry greater historical significance than the Rose Bowl, which began matching the Big Ten and Pac-12 with regularity in the years following World War II.

David Eads, executive director of the Tournament of Roses, left open the possibility of working with the Big Ten and Pac-12 but said there had been no discussions between the conferences and the nonprofit organization that runs the bowl game.

“If it were to come to be and there was interest, obviously we would have an interest in working with our conference partners, the Big Ten and the Pac-12, to do such a game,” Eads said. “But at this point, it still is very premature and really more speculation than anything else.”

The Rose Bowl is a part of the College Football Playoff this season, serving as one of the semifinal sites, but it has staged two games in previous years, leaving some precedent for a dual-hosting model.

In 2010 and 2014, it held a traditional bowl game followed by the Bowl Championship Series national championship game a week later.

In this instance, bowl games or similar exhibitions would follow the national title game.

“The bowl system is designed to provide great opportunities for college football teams to participate in the postseason,” Carparelli said. “So in this difficult year, if some of them happen to be played in the traditional time slots in December but then others are played in the spring, we'd be very much in favor of providing those opportunities.”


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Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. walks off the field with a rose in his mouth after beating Washington.