2020 NCAA Division I FBS football season
|2020 NCAA Division I FBS season|
|Number of teams||130|
|Duration||August 29, 2020 – December 12, 2020|
|Preseason AP No. 1||TBD|
|Duration||December 19, 2020 – January 11, 2021|
|AP Poll No. 1||TBD|
|Coaches Poll No. 1||TBD|
|College Football Playoff|
|2021 College Football Playoff National Championship|
|Site||Hard Rock Stadium|
|NCAA Division I FBS football seasons|
The 2020 NCAA Division I FBS football season will be a season of college football games in the United States organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at its highest level of competition, the Football Bowl Subdivison. Pending developments in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the regular season is tentatively scheduled to begin on August 29, 2020, and end on December 12, 2020. The postseason is planned to conclude on January 11, 2021, with the College Football Playoff National Championship at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. This will be the seventh season of the College Football Playoff championship system.
|School||Former conference||New conference|
|UConn Huskies||The American||Independent|
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish||Independent||Atlantic Coast Conference (2020 only)|
The following playing rule changes were approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel for 2020:
- Players ejected for targeting will now be permitted to remain in the bench area. Previously, players ejected for targeting had to return to the locker room.
- Restricting the number of players on a team wearing the same uniform number to two; such players still cannot be on the field at the same time and must play different positions.
- Including the number "0" as a legal uniform number.
- Extending the official's jurisdiction prior to kickoff from 60 to 90 minutes, requiring a coach from each team be on the field during warm-ups, and identifying each player by number.
- Adopting as a guideline a maximum of 2 minutes for instant replay reviews. Exceptions will be allowed in "exceptionally complicated" or end-of-game situations.
- If the game clock expires at the end of a half, replay determines that time was remaining, and the game situation calls for the clock to start on the referee's signal, the half ends unless the replay determines that the clock should have stopped with 3 or more seconds left.
- February 18 – The NCAA announced that it was considering a proposal that would allow student-athletes in all sports a one-time waiver to transfer to a new school without having to sit out a season. This would place all NCAA sports under the same transfer rules; currently, first-time transfers are only required to sit out a season in baseball, men's and women's basketball, football, and men's ice hockey. The existing criteria for the waiver would be extended to these five sports—namely, a player must receive a transfer release from his or her previous school, leave that school academically eligible, maintain academic progress at the new school, and not be under any disciplinary suspension.
- February 20 – Pitt's football program has been placed on three years' probation as part of a series of violations announced by the Division I Committee on Infractions on Thursday, which also included violations from their men's basketball team and former head coach Kevin Stallings. The football infractions result from a scheme where non-coaching "quality control" staffers performed coaching duties. If people from outside the football program were present at practice, music would be played to alert the staffers to their presence so they could leave. Pat Narduzzi was present at a football practice these three staff members performed coaching duties and was ordered to be held out of practice for two days in August. The school received other sanctions.
- February 26 – The new LA Bowl was announced on February 26, matching the Mountain West's No. 1 team against the Pac-12's No. 5. Beginning in December, the game will be held at SoFi Stadium, the new 70,240-seat home of the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams in Inglewood, California. The LA Bowl is locked in at SoFi from 2020 to 2025.
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Multiple universities and conferences had already cancelled their spring football games as part of the wider, nationwide suspension of organized sports and athletics due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. On March 13, the NCAA announced a suspension of all Division I on-campus and off-campus recruiting until April 15. In regards to its impact on the regular season, NCAA president Mark Emmert stated on May 8 that individual decisions on fall semester sports would likely begin to appear as early as June or around July 4. He suggested that the operation of athletics programs would depend on students being present on-campus to a degree (but not necessarily "up and running in the full normal model"), explaining that "you have to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students", but that "this is going to be a very unusual school year, and we just have to make the best of it".
The NCAA Division I Council prohibited on-campus activities through May 31; on May 20, the Council voted to end the moratorium and allow voluntary on-campus activity in football and basketball to begin June 1, subject to new safety protocols. On June 17, the Division I Council approved a timetable for a season assumed to begin September 5, including beginning non-voluntary training activities on July 13.
On June 24, USA Today reported that at least 37 FBS schools had reported positive cases of COVID-19 among student-athletes or staff since practices resumed. Amidst a spike in cases in the Southern U.S. since late-June, several state governors, including Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Georgia's Brian Kemp, and South Carolina's Henry McMaster, have warned that football season could be threatened if cases do not subside in time.
On July 15, the Rose Parade was cancelled due to the pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl Game itself is still tentatively scheduled. The same day, the NCAA announced that FBS teams would be permitted to count two wins against FCS teams, instead of the usual one, towards bowl eligibility.
On July 16, the NCAA released a series of recommendations regarding protocols for fall sports, including that all participants in "high contact risk sports" be tested with results within 72 hours of play. President Emmert noted, however, that the guidelines presumed that the infection rate would be "manageable", and that "If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic."  The American Athletic Conference announced the same day that it will adhere to this protocol; commissioner Mike Aresco stated that "with the proper quarantine and the proper canvassing of close contacts, we think at this point it would be safe to play games." On July 18, the SEC announced that it would still honor scholarships for players who opt out of the fall season due to safety concerns.
On July 28, by request of the Football Oversight Committee, the NCAA announced that it had issued a blanket waiver for all teams to allow play in "Week 0", in order to allow for greater scheduling flexibility amid changing conditions.
In the event that conditions do not improve by the traditional timeframe of football season, the possibility of delaying the football season entirely to spring 2021 was suggested by several coaches. However, it was largely considered by them to be a last resort. Aresco commented that such a delay would likely require practices to be held over the winter indoors — environments that have been shown to exacerbate spread of COVID-19.
Impact on scheduling and games played
All of the Power Five conferences have announced cuts to non-conference games in order to overcome logistical concerns and reduce interstate travel. The Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC are all limiting play to in-conference opponents only. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Big 12 will allow one non-conference game each, with the ACC restricting them to in-state opponents. The ACC is also suspending the use of divisions, with the top two teams in conference play by winning percentage advancing to the ACC Championship Game. Some FCS conferences (such as the Patriot League) have cancelled or postponed football season outright, affecting games against FBS opponents.
The restrictions complicated matters for FBS independents; the first four games of the BYU Cougars were all against Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, while Notre Dame lost three of its marquee games of the season — including one against Wisconsin that was to be played at Lambeau Field, and traditional rivalry games against Stanford (not held for the first time since 1996) and USC (postponed for the first time since 1945 due to World War II). Notre Dame and Navy had also cancelled a planned international game in Dublin, Ireland, and tentatively rescheduled it for Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
On July 29, the ACC announced that Notre Dame (which is an ACC member in all other sports outside of football and ice hockey) would participate as guest member of the conference for the 2020 season, being incorporated into its scheduling model (including 10 games against ACC members, expanding from six already scheduled) and being eligible to compete for the conference championship. Notre Dame will pool its media rights revenue from NBC with that of the ACC's other media rights, and be eligible to receive a share of the total revenue.
Teams not participating
Impact on attendance
Some teams announced that they tentatively planned to allow spectators at their games at a percentage of normal capacity, such as the Texas Longhorns (Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium was already to have slightly reduced capacity this season due to renovations) and the North Carolina Tar Heels. In the state of New York, current health orders require all sporting events be played behind closed doors, and Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that this would apply to college sports as well.
- The 2020 season will be the first for South Alabama at Hancock Whitney Stadium replacing Ladd–Peebles Stadium. The team is scheduled to play its first game there on September 12 against Grambling State. The Senior Bowl post-season all-star game (which was played at Ladd–Peebles) is also moving to the new stadium for this season's edition in January 2021.
- The 2020 season will also be the first for UNLV at Allegiant Stadium replacing Sam Boyd Stadium. The team is scheduled to play its first game there on August 29 against California.
- The 2020 season will be the last season for UAB at Legion Field before moving to Protective Stadium on the grounds of the Birmingham–Jefferson Convention Complex in 2021. The Blazers are scheduled to play their final game at Legion Field on November 28 against Southern Miss.
Hawaii at Arizona(Cancelled)
- Marshall at East Carolina, honoring the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 people, including 37 from the Marshall University football team. The crash occurred as the Thundering Herd were returning from a game at East Carolina.
California at UNLV(Cancelled) New Mexico State at UCLA(Cancelled)
- UC Davis at Nevada
- Southern Illinois at Kansas
- Missouri State at Oklahoma
- SMU at Texas State
Additionally, the Emerald Isle Classic at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland was scheduled to occur during Week 0, featuring Navy versus Notre Dame. However, on June 2, 2020, the game was moved from Dublin to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. The game will be the first in the history of the Navy–Notre Dame football rivalry to be played at Navy's home stadium.
The majority of FBS teams are scheduled to open the season on Labor Day weekend. Four neutral-site "kickoff" games were scheduled to be held but they all have since been cancelled.
Texas Kickoff (NRG Stadium, Houston): Baylor vs. Ole Miss(Cancelled) Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta): Advocare Classic (AT&T Stadium, Arlington): Alabama vs. USC(Cancelled)
Due to a sponsorship change, what had been the Camping World Bowl played in Florida was renamed the Cheez-It Bowl, and the former Cheez-It Bowl played in Arizona reverted its name to Cactus Bowl. Also due to a sponsorship change, what had been the Belk Bowl was renamed as the Duke's Mayo Bowl. At the end of July, organizers of Redbox Bowl, played in Santa Clara, California, cancelled the 2020 edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preseason and in-season
This is restricted to coaching changes taking place on or after May 1, 2020, and will also include any changes announced after a team's last regularly scheduled game but before its bowl game. For coaching changes that occurred earlier in 2020, see 2019 NCAA Division I FBS end-of-season coaching changes.
End of season
This list includes coaching changes announced during the season that did not take effect until the end of the season.
Television viewers and ratings
Most-watched regular season games
Conference championship games
- 2020 NCAA Division I FCS football season
- 2020 NCAA Division II football season
- 2020 NCAA Division III football season
- 2020 NAIA football season
- With the cancellation of the Redbox Bowl in late July due to COVID-19 concerns, and scheduling restrictions implemented by some conferences, the number of bowl games that organizers will stage is unclear.
- "ACC sets 11-game slate, includes Notre Dame". ESPN.com. 2020-07-30. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
- "Football players flagged for targeting will be able to remain in bench area" (Press release). NCAA. April 21, 2020. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
- West, Jenna (February 18, 2020). "NCAA to Consider Letting All Athletes Transfer One Time Without Sitting Out". SI.com. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
- "Pitt basketball, football placed on probation; ex-coach Kevin Stallings dealt show-cause penalty". ESPN.com. February 20, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
- "LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium added to postseason slate in 2020". ESPN.com. February 26, 2020. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
- VanHaaren, Tom (March 13, 2020). "NCAA suspends all recruiting in Division I through April 15". ESPN.com. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
- "Emmert expects no sports without students back". ESPN.com. 2020-05-09. Retrieved 2020-07-11.
- "NCAA: Voluntary campus workouts OK in June". ESPN.com. 2020-05-20. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
- "NCAA Approves Required Football Work to Begin July 13". GenesPage.com. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
- Myerberg, Paul (June 24, 2020). "Return of college athletes for workouts brings COVID-19 issues that could threaten fall schedule". USA Today. Archived from the original on July 15, 2020. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
- "As coronavirus cases rise, governors warn the college football season could be in danger". Washington Post. 2020-07-02. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
- Hipes, Patrick (2020-07-15). "Rose Parade Officials Cancel 2021 Event Amid Coronavirus Concerns". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-07-15.
- Kelley, Kevin (15 July 2020). "NCAA allows FBS teams to count two FCS wins for bowl eligibility in 2020". FBSchedules.com. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
- "Emmert: Need better handle on pandemic to play". ESPN.com. 2020-07-16. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
- "AAC to require testing 72 hours before games". ESPN.com. 2020-07-16. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
- "SEC to honor scholarships for athletes opting out". ESPN.com. 2020-07-17. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
- "Reports: NCAA permits teams to schedule 'Week 0' games". AL.com. 2020-07-28. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
- "What do Pac-12 and Big Ten decisions mean for college football?". ESPN.com. 2020-07-11. Retrieved 2020-07-11.
- "Big Ten going to conference-only slate this fall". ESPN.com. 2020-07-09. Retrieved 2020-07-10.
- "SEC to play 10-game, conference-only schedule". ESPN.com. 2020-07-30. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
- "Big 12 approves 9+1 schedule model for football". ESPN.com. 2020-08-04. Retrieved 2020-08-05.
- Scarborough, Alex (2020-07-13). "Patriot League cancels fall sports due to coronavirus". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on 2020-07-15. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
- "Notre Dame-Navy game moved from Ireland". ESPN.com. 2020-06-02. Retrieved 2020-07-11.
- "UConn Cancels Football Season Over COVID-19 Concerns". NBC Connecticut. Retrieved 2020-08-05.
- "UConn 1st FBS team to cancel football season". ESPN.com. 2020-08-05. Retrieved 2020-08-05.
- "Texas aiming for 50% capacity at football games". ESPN.com. 2020-07-20. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
- "UNC: Limited attendance if home games played". ESPN.com. 2020-07-27. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
- "Gov. Cuomo: 'No fans' at college sports in N.Y." ESPN.com. 2020-07-21. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
- "2020 South Alabama Football Schedule Released". usajaguars.com. February 28, 2020. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
- Stephenson, Creg (March 4, 2020). "Senior Bowl to be played at South Alabama's Hancock Whitney Stadium beginning in 2021". AL.com. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
- "Las Vegas Stadium Authority Consultant Radiers UNLV Stadium Deal Does Not Reqiure Raiders To Have Allegiant Stadium Available For Rebels Home Games On Sept 5 And 12". LVSportsbiz.com. December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
- "UAB Releases 2020 Football Schedule". CBS42.com. January 8, 2020. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- "2020 College Football Schedule". FBSchedules.com. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
- Cooper, Sam (February 22, 2020). "Marshall-E. Carolina game moved up in honor of 1970 plane crash". MSN.com.
- "Football Dublins Aviva Stadium To Host The 2020 Game". UND.com. October 25, 2018. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
- Dinich, Heather. "Notre Dame-Navy football game moving from Ireland to Maryland". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
- Wilmer, Brian (31 July 2020). "2020 Redbox Bowl canceled". FBSchedules.com. Retrieved 1 August 2020.