The recent changes to Power 5 football schedules could impact the entire bowl system, as bowl organizations and conferences are contemplating adjusting the schedule and eligibility requirements for teams during a season that has already been drastically altered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Nick Carparelli, who oversees the 42 bowls as executive director of the Football Bowl Association, told ESPN on Monday there have been discussions about minimizing the importance of a team's final record as a criteria for selection. Under current NCAA rules, teams with a .500 record or better are eligible for bowls -- an easy transition with 10-game schedules -- but with the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC using conference-only models this fall, some deserving teams could slip below .500.
There's also the possibility that the coronavirus disrupts the season as it has Major League Baseball, and some teams aren't able to play the full 10 games and "end up with a final record that looks a little odd."
"A lot of thought has gone into those partnerships, which is the reason those bowls and conferences came together, so we feel that this year, final records should be really minimized and conferences should simply fill their bowl slots based on the final standings within their conference," Carparelli said. "I say final standings, but it's up to each conference how they want to fill their bowl spots, but we already have the system in place. We have direct agreements between conferences and bowl games and oftentimes they're predicated on final bowl eligibility as to whether or not they can all be filled, but I think this year we're discussing the notion that they simply get filled regardless of final record."
Every bowl game has agreements with two or more conferences to fill their slots every year. With the Pac-12 and SEC recently announcing their seasons won't start until Sept. 26, it could also alter the bowl schedule. The Pac-12 will now play its conference championship game on Dec. 18 or 19, and the SEC also announced Dec. 19 as its title game date.
"Once the season does officially kick off, the conferences will come together with their bowl partners and talk about when does the bowl season start, how long is it, and when does it need to end?" Carparelli said. "Similar to the regular season, the answers to those are going to be different than what they typically are."
"I'm not so sure that just because conference championship games are played on the 19th that the bowl season can't still start on that date," Carparelli said. "Typically, teams that are playing in conference championship games are not playing on that first week of the bowl season anyway. I'm not suggesting that's how it's going to happen; it's just one example of how we all need to be open-minded and flexible this year, not rule anything out."
The NCAA's Football Competition committee and Football Oversight committee would have the authority to change the eligibility requirements for this season, but those decisions aren't yet "on the horizon," Carparelli said. The conversations will get more serious if -- and when --the season actually kicks off.
"As long as teams want to play in bowl games, and the bowl organizations want to host them, which remains the case, the bowl system is prepared to be played at the end of the regular season," Carparelli said, "whenever that may be."
Including the spring.
"This year is so unique and the bowl system has had the position for a long time now that we were going to be very patient, and prepared to be very flexible when the time comes," Carparelli said. "We're getting more information, we're seeing different conferences starting on different dates, playing different numbers of games, and ending on different dates. As we get closer to the regular season actually kicking off, and we observe that it actually does, the bowl system is going to look equally as different as the regular season."