Tramel: Why not give college football some wiggle room and push back the conference title games?
The Masters is being staged amid the splendor of fall foliage.
The NBA season started on Oct. 22 and ended on Oct. 11, 355 days later.
The Indianapolis 500 and Kentucky Derby raced not in May, but on Aug. 23 and Sept. 5, respectively.
So are we so sure that the College Football Playoff will be presented on the tidy dates of Jan. 1 and Jan. 11? Are we so sure that they should be?
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Sirius XM Radio on Thursday that the CFP operations committee, of which he is a member, has discussed postponing the playoff.
And who can be surprised at that? Almost everything in American life — weddings, funerals, graduations, ballgames, concerts, movies, vacations — has been postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. Why not college football?
The COVID has not slowed. The numbers are as daunting now as they were months ago. College football postponements and cancellations are coming in more rapid fire now than at any point in the season.
In the Southeastern Conference alone this weekend, Alabama-LSU, Georgia-Missouri, Tennessee-Texas A&M and Auburn-Mississippi State have been postponed.
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The SEC gridiron is holy ground. If the majority of SEC campuses go dark to football on a November Saturday, you know it’s serious business.
Football is serious business, too, and that includes the four-team playoff, which is more important than ever in the 2020 season, not for American morale but for university budgets. The hemorrhaged money from lost ticket sales and television contracts cannot be recouped.
The playoff, a financial bonanza, would be a severe wound to an already-bleeding enterprise.
If the playoff must be delayed, even into February, delayed it will be.
"I am on the CFP operations committee, and we spent some time talking about that," Bowlsby said on Sirius. "We have not come to any closure on it, but there is some latitude to postpone it if that need should arise.
“The same is true with some of the New Year's Six (bowl) games. I don't know if I see us playing a championship game in February, but you just never know. These are unusual times, and things that might not otherwise be acceptable have to be considered in this kind of circumstance."
Bowlsby is exactly right. Would college football playoff want a five- or six-week delay between the regular season and the playoff? Of course not. But it’s not like this is a sport that historically has jumped straight into a playoff. Many are the teams that never have played in December, going straight from a November regular-season finale to a January bowl game with huge ramifications.
Truth is, there’s not any reason why the Dec. 19 date for the conference championship games is sacred. That date was settled on by the summer revision of college football schedules.
If too many more games are postponed, particularly in the late-to-start Big Ten and Pac-12, why not push it all back? Stretch it out if you have to.
Earlier this week, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey declined to address the playoff dates. But he certainly indicated it was a possibility.
"We're all going to have to be flexible," Sankey said. “I'm not going to hypothesize about change, but I'm not inattentive to the potential that change may need to occur."
Some have suggested an expansion of the playoff, noting the preposterous task of picking among teams that might have played 10 or 11 games and teams that might have played six or seven games.
But expanding the playoffs is silly. Expansion is the surest way to endanger the playoff. The current format requires three games. Expanding by just one round more than doubles that minimum, to seven games. The chances of COVID postponements or forfeitures mushroom.
Any other year, talk of post-season college football moving well past New Year’s Day would be heresy. But this is not any year. This is a year when Derby horses run in the summer sun and azaleas are gone from the Masters.
Bowl games will be a shadow of their former selves. No parades. No week-long trips. No thousands of fans flocking to follow their team. Playing the semifinals on Jan. 1 or Jan. 16 makes no difference.
Heck, maybe we need to reboot and schedule the conference championship games for Jan. 1. Give leagues two extra Saturdays — Dec. 19 and 26 to get in games that were wrecked by the COVID.
Schedule the semifinals a couple of weeks later, the championship game nine days after that.
Give college football some wiggle room. Racing to hit a Dec. 19 or Jan. 1 deadline is foolish in this pandemic season.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.