College football’s bowl lineup released with fewer games and an altered schedule

The college football bowl season is moving forward as planned – for the most part, and at least for now.

Bowl Season organizers on Friday announced a 37-game postseason schedule starting Dec. 19 – a partial reduction from the record 43 major college games that been planned before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Six games were not on the schedule released Friday, including two new ones: The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit and Las Vegas Bowl. Before Friday, four bowl games already had bowed out of the lineup this season because of issues related to the pandemic: The Redbox Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Bahamas Bowl and Holiday Bowl, an annual staple in San Diego since 1978.

Clemson running back Travis Etienne breaks free to scores a touchdown against Ohio State during the 2019 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. (Photo: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports)

Bowl organizers said that a decision regarding the Las Vegas Bowl will be announced “in the near future.” The Quick Lane Bowl said on its website it was disappointed about not having a game this year but is planning to come back in 2021, along with other postponed games.

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The Fenway Bowl in Boston, a new game that was scheduled for this season, will not take place there and instead will be replaced by the Montgomery Bowl in Alabama Dec. 23.

“We are thrilled to have the Bowl Season schedule set,” said a statement from Nick Carparelli, Executive Director of Bowl Season, a coalition of bowl games formerly known as the Football Bowl Association. “It has been an exceptionally unusual year due to the pandemic. But thanks to the flexibility and cooperation of the conferences and bowl partners, we are excited to reward student-athletes.”

The business of bowl games had been facing several problems amid the pandemic. One is that they rely on ticket sales as a major revenue source but likely won’t be able to sell many because of concerns about virus transmission and restrictions on public gatherings. 

Another issue is that bowl season normally starts around Dec. 19, at least two weeks after teams finished the regular season. This year, league championships have been pushed back until that date, leaving much less of the usual time to plan, prepare and build hype for a slate of 40-plus bowl games.

This has led to some changes including staging putting a lower-tier bowl game, the Birmingham Bowl, on the same New Year’s Day stage as the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. Instead of several games on the first weekend of bowl season – there were eight in 2019 – this year there will be only one Dec 19: the Frisco Bowl in Texas.

To make bowl season more viable, the NCAA even previously removed the requirement that teams needed to win at least half their games to be eligible to play in them. This year, teams with losing records would be allowed to fill bowl slots if desired.

But some uncertainty still looms about how to pull it off amid spiking COVID cases in the U.S. Before Friday, the Football Bowl Association’s website showed a schedule filled with most game dates listed as “TBA.” Friday’s schedule release provides more clarity unless COVID forces more changes.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: [email protected]

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