The SEC Losing Non-Conference Games Is All But Inevitable Now

-Tommy Foltz and Evin Demirel

So, the Big 10 and the Pac-12 have cancelled all of their non-conference games moving into the fall of 2020.  That may or may not cost Arkansas State, which was scheduled to play Michigan, a total of $1.8 million. Do these cancellations make sense?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that it won’t stop here.

Our favorite cuddly, little pandemic is going to cost us a lot more football than this. Expect the ACC is announce it’s going to announce the same in the coming days, says WatchStadium’s Brett McMurphy.

McMurphy spoke to dozens of insiders on Thursday and Friday. Sources told him that the ACC is likely have to go to a conference-only schedule (potentially with one non-conference opponent) as well.

The ACC, of course, overlaps much of the same football-crazed part of the South as the SEC. If they do this, expect that the SEC is going to do this. Based on what SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Saturday morning, lost football seems more inevitable than ever:


And officials from the ACC, Big 12 and SEC told ESPN on Friday that they probably will wait until the end of July to make a decision on scheduling for football this fall. On Monday, SEC athletic directors are scheduled to meet at the league’s office in Birmingham, Alabama.

Arkansas’ four non-conference games (Nevada, Notre Dame, Charleston Southern and Louisiana-Monroe) are firmly on the chopping block.

These are uncertain times, to be sure.

Instead of worrying about the depressing possibility of whether there will be football at all, let’s jump straight into something more fun:


For years, the magic number of wins to become bowl eligible has been 6, based on a 12 game season.  The exception to this is when there are not enough teams with 6 wins to fill the hideously large volume of bowl games in college football.  Then they allow teams with the best academic records, but only 5 wins to accept bowl bids.

So, the question for the NCAA is:  What is the magic number now? 

It’s almost impossible to tell, and it will remain that way even after all the conferences make their decisions on how many non-conference games they will play.


On the sports radio shot “Out of Bounds,” McMurphy laid it out: “Just because a team plays all conference doesn’t mean they cut out non-conference and play as is. They may have to move some conference games around, they may have to tweak some opponents. I know teams want additional bye weeks in there in case you have a COVID outbreak. Teams may have to postpone a game because of a high number of positive tests.”

“It’s going to be weird bowl season. I’m sure you’re going to have a number of teams with losing records go to bowls, but they’re going to have to do that to fill up all the spots.”

Hear the whole interview at 22:30 here:


There are at least 3 scenarios that can be played out here in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic.  Let’s use Ohio State as the example:

—OSU begins a 12-game season at 4-0 because “we all know” the Ohio State would have won all of its non-conference games.  They would then be required to win 2 out of 6 conference games to become bowl eligible.

—OSU begins an 8-game conference-only season at 0-0 and is therefore required to win 4 of 8 conference games, which would get them to .500, which is effectively the requirement in a normal season.

—OSU starts the season at 0-4 because they have effectively forfeited their non-conference games.  OSU will have to win 6 of 8 conference games to get to 6 wins, which is another way to look at what would be required in a 12 game season.

And, let’s not forget that any Big 10 team playing in a bowl game will have fresher legs than a team from a conference that played a full schedule — if there are any such teams in the fall? In that case, it would it be fair to the non-Big 10 team?  

I think not.


There are more scenarios that could play out, but the above does illustrate some of the decision-making that will have to occur in the coming months.

But, what if a Big 10 team makes it to a bowl game?  The chances of that team playing against another Big 10 team in a bowl are slim to none, and Slim just tested positive.  

Does anyone really think that the Big 10 will stick to its guns and not allow Ohio State to potentially play in the College Football Playoffs’ Final Four because they banned non-conference play?  

I seriously doubt it.


It goes without saying the Big 10 would lift the ban and in so doing, over the course of the season, Big 10 teams would have saved somewhere in the $2.5 million to $4 million range by not having to pay for “rent-a-win” non-conference opponents.  And, they will have earned millions to play in the postseason. 

Say what you want about that conference’s attention to health, but they must have a fine group of financial analysts on staff too.  Depending on how the NCAA determines bowl eligibility based on the Big 10’s decision, this could be a win-win-win scenario for the conference.

They win in the health department, the public relations health department and the financial health of the conference department.  

The losers are the non-conference opponents like Arkansas State who not only won’t get paid (if their case for a cancellation fee falls through), but will also lose the opportunity to put themselves on the map by actually beating a team from a Power 5 conference.  

As J. Paul Getty used to say, “The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not the mineral rights.”

The rich get richer while the poor stand by and watch.


More on the big picture around this situation here:

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