The Sun Belt is the first Group of Five conference to announce its plans for the 2020 college football season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, the conference said that it is planning to begin league play over Labor Day weekend. Each Sun Belt member will play an eight-game conference schedule with the option to “add as many as four non-conference opponents,” beginning with Week 0 (Aug. 29). The NCAA issued a blanket waiver to FBS teams last week allowing their seasons to begin Aug. 29. Texas State announced Monday that it moved its season-opening game against SMU up a week to Aug. 29.
The Sun Belt has 10 teams split into East and West divisions. The conference title game, which features the two division champions, is scheduled for Dec. 5, but that date can be adjusted if necessary.
The conference said this conclusion was reached “after extensive discussions and careful deliberation” among Sun Belt officials, medical advisers and the conference’s COVID-19 advisory panel. The conference said it will continually monitor health trends across the Sun Belt footprint, which spans seven states.
“Sun Belt member institutions have focused since June on a safe return to athletic activities. We believe this timetable will allow for the healthy integration of the entire campus community for each Sun Belt member,” a conference press release said. “We will continue to provide updates on the league’s activities as the impact of the pandemic continues to evolve.”
The other Group of Five conferences have yet to announce their decisions for the 2020 season, though Brett McMurphy of Stadium reported that Conference USA is planning to have the same format as the Sun Belt.
It is not immediately clear what direction American, Mid-Atlantic and Mountain West conferences will take.
Sun Belt schedules impacted by Power Five leagues
Sun Belt teams have seen their schedules ravaged by the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 deciding to play conference-only schedules. The SEC decision was especially impactful as these games are significant sources of revenue for Sun Belt athletic departments.
The following non-conference games have been canceled:
Appalachian State: at Wake Forest (Sept. 11), at Wisconsin (Sept. 19)
Arkansas State: at Michigan (Sept. 19)
Coastal Carolina: at South Carolina (Sept. 5), vs. Kansas (Sept. 26)
Georgia Southern: at Ole Miss (Nov. 21)
Georgia State: at Alabama (Sept. 12)
Louisiana: at Missouri (Nov. 21)
Louisiana Monroe: at Georgia (Sept. 26), at Arkansas (Nov. 21)
South Alabama: vs. Grambling (Sept. 12), at Florida (Sept. 19)
Troy: vs. NC State (Sept. 19), at Tennessee (Nov. 21)
The ACC and Big 12 are allowing for one non-conference game for each of their members. For the ACC, the game must take place in the member’s home state, a decision that keeps Appalachian State’s scheduled trip to Wake Forest on Sept. 11 as a possibility.
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