With the ACC, Big 12 and SEC waiting until next week to make a decision about their respective season schedules, three prominent Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games remain in limbo.
If those three conferences follow the Big Ten and Pac-12 into going to conference-only play due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Florida State-West Virginia, Georgia-Virginia and Auburn-North Carolina games set for Weeks 1 and 2 in Atlanta would be canceled -- a loss that Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan estimates at $100 million in economic impact.
"If we didn't have COVID-19, we were on our way to selling all three games out," Stokan said in a phone interview with ESPN. "We would have had over $100 million in economic impact and probably $7.5 million flow back into the tourism industry here locally in Atlanta. So it's a big loss to the community if we have no games. If we have some capacity, we can still make a little bit of money for the tourism industry because they've been shut out of everything. We could be a little bit of a bright spot."
This is the first time in the Kickoff Game's history that they arranged to play three games to open the season. Though Stokan has no say in the final outcome, he has tried to play scheduling matchmaker for them.
If the three decided to adopt a model of conference games plus one nonconference game, the SEC/ACC rivalry games between Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Louisville-Kentucky and Clemson-South Carolina would surely be saved.
That model would impact two teams in the three scheduled Kickoff Games. Stokan has pitched pairing Virginia-West Virginia to fill the gaps and at least save two of the three games.
In addition, he also pitched Notre Dame-Alabama and Notre Dame-Miami to all three of those schools' athletic directors, as they all have holes in their schedules from games that were canceled by the Big Ten and Pac-12.
Stokan doesn't know whether any of his ideas have any traction, but he felt he had to do something to at least try.
"I've got to throw a Hail Mary out, because if I don't and they go conference-only, we lose three Kickoff Games," Stokan said.
Stokan said if the conferences decided to keep the games but push back the start of the season, Mercedes-Benz Stadium would still be able to host the games. In fact, he said the stadium is prepared to host all three Kickoff Games, the SEC championship game and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at any time on the schedule -- including in the spring.
"We have to be as flexible as possible, and we will be with respect to our partners at College Football Playoff, to the bowl game and the conference commissioners for the Kickoff Games," Stokan said. "If they want to put us in September, if they want to put is in October, if they want to start the season with conference games and play the plus-one at the end, we're able to do that. We're able to move our bowl game back. We're able to play in March or May if they play in the springtime.
"Whenever they need us to play the game, all the Football Bowl Association bowl directors feel the same way: We'll be as flexible as they need us to be."