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Bob Bowlsby Pushing for Big 12 to Have Full 12-Game Schedule in 2020

The Big 12 and SEC are pushing ahead. The ACC is deciding its fate this week.

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While the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already moved to eliminate nonconference games in 2020, Big 12 conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby is pushing forward full-steam ahead.

Bowlsby, in an interview with ESPN that published Monday, said that the league is intent on filling out 12-game schedules despite cancellations that came about from the Big Ten and Pac-12 recently, and that the ACC and SEC are working in lockstep, knowing that one league’s decision will affect the others.

“They’re still looking to play the 12-game schedule and so are we,” Bowlsby told ESPN of the SEC and ACC. “Obviously, if one of us would make the decision to go to conference-only, that would affect the others. I’m guessing we would get some advance notice on that, but nobody has made that decision yet — at least not among the [SEC, ACC or Big 12].”

Bowlsby said for now that schedules and models that don’t include full 12-game schedules are “fallbacks,” which they don’t want to use unless they are forced to do so. Right now, teams are getting creative: OU, for instance, has moved up its season-opener one week.

This sets up for a potentially fascinating dichotomy with respect to title chases. What if, say, Oklahoma State has a 12-game schedule and it goes 11-1, but Ohio State, with a nine game schedule, goes 9-0 in the Big Ten? Who gets CFP Playoff consideration? Is there extra credibility given to teams that play a full slate, despite Ohio State’s inability to do so?

Bowlsby told ESPN of varying paths that leagues might take with scheduling: “They can’t be incompatible, but they don’t have to be identical.”

It is still early enough in the summer to where leagues don’t have to make decisions right now. But the deadline is fast approaching. The ACC might announce its plans this week, which could have a cascading effect on the Big 12 and SEC. If they go with no nonconference games, they may be forced to fall in line. Conversely, pushing ahead status quo would likely mean the same for the three conferences.

Because the majority of the power conferences in football have not decided one way or another yet, it seems clear they’re holding out hope that a season, uninterrupted and in full, is the clear and obvious preferred path. But the reality of going about business as usual in the midst of a pandemic that continues to ravage the country has complications far and wide. MLB, for instance, had a team temporarily halt its season after an outbreak that was reported Monday.

“Because our programs are embedded within collegiate operations and within higher education, our task is infinitely more complicated than it is with 30 teams,” Bowlsby told USA Today in May, referencing the challenge of having a safe season with infinitely more teams than the NBA, which is holding the remainder of its season in a bubble. “As a matter of scale, our task is very different than that in professional sports. Even the pro leagues are finding trouble getting the answers they need, and what was a good answer a month ago isn’t satisfactory today. And what’s good today likely won’t be satisfactory a month from now. This is going to be continual voyage of discovery, and we’ll have to innovate going forward to meet the demands.”

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