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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby downplays talk of delaying College Football Playoff

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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Friday downplayed his comments about potentially delaying the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six bowls because of COVID-19, telling ESPN, "We're not going to move off of that schedule unless we're forced to move off of it."

On Thursday, Bowlsby told Sirius XM that the CFP's management committee, which is comprised of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, has discussed the possibility of pushing the playoff back this season. The national championship game is currently scheduled for Jan. 11 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

"I don't know if I see us playing a championship game in February, but you just never know," Bowlsby said on the radio. "These are unusual times and things that might not otherwise be acceptable have to be considered in this kind of circumstance."

While multiple commissioners and sources have acknowledged discussions have taken place this week, they have centered around what one person described as "broad hypotheticals." One of the major questions facing the sport's decision-makers is: What happens if the playoff is moved and one of the teams in the national title game can't play for another two weeks because of an outbreak or contact tracing issues within the team?

"The commissioners regularly engage in scenario planning," Bowlsby said. "We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we weren't. That's been especially true in 2020. We have no plans to change anything. It's just good management to think about what-ifs and if we don't do that, how would we respond if we needed to respond?"

Bowlsby said Friday that there is no cutoff date to make a decision, and that any number of factors or combination of variables -- including rising positivity rates nationally, and rulings by state and local health and government officials -- could constitute a circumstance that "would necessitate change." He said it would be "irresponsible not to do some scenario-planning."

When asked whether the CFP semifinals and national title game could be treated like any other regular-season game -- without all of the typical fanfare and hoopla leading up to the actual event -- Bowlsby said, "Those are the kinds of things that we have considered and will consider."

Bowlsby also said he hasn't heard any talk about potentially waiting until after a vaccine is ready. He declined to give specifics as to what has to happen in order to move the playoff, but one of the most obvious challenges would be finding a window around the NFL playoffs -- and the fact the coronavirus pandemic is still raging.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN on Friday that there's a strong sentiment among the commissioners to play the games as scheduled "knowing it won't be perfect," and that they plan to wait as long as they can to make a decision.

"Nothing is imminent," Hancock said. "They're talking about a lot of things, which is night and day different than they're going to do it."

The 13 members of the CFP's selection committee are scheduled to release their first ranking on Nov. 24, and their final ranking on Dec. 20. As the SEC continues to navigate its way through a tumultuous week during which four games were postponed in a span of three days, the SEC presidents and chancellors on Thursday discussed the idea of using Dec. 19, which is the day of the SEC championship game, as a potential makeup date for games. While it remains an option, the SEC isn't ready to make any official announcements yet.

That date would almost have to be used if the league is going to play all 70 games this season. It's too early to tell, though, what games would be played on that date. The SEC doesn't currently have a window for the LSU-Alabama game, which was postponed this week. With Alabama currently in first place in the West and the leading candidate to play in the Dec. 19 championship game, it doesn't make sense to move the game to Dec. 19 right now.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was asked on Wednesday about the possibility of pushing the playoff back, and he told reporters, "We have finish lines right now."

"The semifinals are on [January] first," Sankey said. "The championship is on the 11th. The reality is if you walk in the back of my building, there's a sign that says be flexible.

"I'm not going to hypothesize about change, but I'm not inattentive to the potential that change may need to occur at a number of different levels."