(Stats Perform) – There remains the possibility of an FCS season this fall even as schools and conferences continue to announce they’re suspending competition for the rest of the year.
Anything beyond the regular season, though, is less likely.
As everybody debates whether to play a fall season amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, how many teams would be necessary for the NCAA to hold a regular season and the playoffs?
That question has the interest of James Madison, which announced Friday it is open to pursuing an independent schedule even after its conference, CAA Football, announced it will not have a fall season. JMU, which has played in three of the last four national championship games, would be one of the few schools still looking to play from the 12-member CAA.
When asked about how many teams would be necessary for a 2020 regular season to lead to the playoffs, JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said, “You would hope 50 percent. It would be nice if it were in fact higher than that. You would like every institution that stands an opportunity to be able to try to play for the postseason.”
The CAA became the fourth FCS conference out of 13 overall to announce it will forgo the fall season – the most damaging blow to date for the FCS. Just two years ago, the conference had a record six of the 24 playoff qualifiers.
Out of the four conferences, only the CAA and the Patriot League have automatic bids to the playoffs. The Ivy League doesn’t participate in the postseason and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference sends its champion to the Celebration Bowl, which was canceled on Thursday.
“This scenario changes daily,” Bourne said. “For those of us who are trying to plan and align within the industry, it’s very challenging. We acknowledge that there are different institutions that are in different places (with COVID-19) … that there are some schools that may in fact be able to play a championship season and get there, and there are others that aren’t. And we realize that we could end up on either side of that ourselves.”
More FCS conferences may cancel their fall season in the coming weeks. Should there be some form of a season, the playoffs don’t necessarily have to be 24 teams, especially as the original list of automatic qualifiers shrinks, already going from 10 to eight (the other bids go to at-large qualifiers). The playoffs had 16 teams as recently as 2009 and was 20 from 2010-12.