Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Dear Greg Sankey, Let’s Fix the CFB Calendar

Dear Greg Sankey,

You and Tony Pettiti are set to meet to divide up the remaining assets in the ACC, err, and discuss how best to fix some of the major issues facing college football. Let the writers at Last Word on College Football take one problem off of your plate: the CFB Calendar. The calendar is broken. December is a blur. Let us take a page out of the NFL playbook and create a 12-month calendar that alleviates some of the stress from your coaches but, most importantly, has a news cycle that keeps your sport at the top of your mind. The Southeastern Conference has set the standard for excellence in college football; our recommendation is to fix the calendar starting with the 2024 season.

Let’s Fix the CFB Calendar

July: SEC Media Days

No change here. Having the SEC Media Days in the middle of July is the perfect way to kick off the college football season. With a 16-team league, let’s set this up over four days. Each day will focus on four teams. With the SEC footprint expanding deeper in Texas and into Oklahoma in 2024, let’s add Dallas to the rotation for hosting sites. Atlanta and Birmingham are always special, but spreading out to Nashville and Dallas expands the footprint and keeps Media Days fresh.

August 1 Early National Signing Day

August brings about the first significant revision to the current calendar. The  December Signing Day has become the de facto national signing day for high school recruits. It is estimated that as many as 85-90% of high school recruits sign now in the early signing period. With conference championships, the early transfer portal, bowl season, and the College Football Playoff occupying this space, December is bursting at the seams. August allows the high school players to make that early signing day special. It could also alleviate some stress and let them lock in and enjoy their senior season.

You may not get 85-90% of high school players signing in August, like in December, but that number would probably be around 75%. If you have a coaching change (whatever the cause, that’s a whole other committee/letter), those kids can be released from their NLI and signed with a new team in February.

August- November: Football

Fall practice starts in August for everyone. Let’s push the start of the season back one more week, giving each team two bye weeks. The early start lets teams play Thursday-Sunday for two weeks, allowing viewers to hone in on college football and not compete against the NFL. The season wraps up on Thanksgiving weekend.

December: Championship & Bowl Schedule

Conference championship weekend remains the first weekend in December. Please work with the other nine conference commissioners to spread the games from Thursday through Saturday so we don’t overlap games.

For Bowl season, let’s get rid of the six-win requirement. We’ve already had to have exemptions because there were not enough teams with six wins in the last couple of years. This problem will likely grow with the playoff expanding to 12 (maybe 16?). Remove that requirement, and with more teams available, this can also give networks more games inventory to put on televisions in December.

Early January National Championship

This one will be a challenge, but this involves no off weeks. While we’re at it, let’s add in a few more home games. The first two rounds will and should be at home stadiums. Sanford Stadium, Bryan Denny Stadium, DK Royal, and Vaught Hemingway were made to host playoff games. It’s good for the sport and surrounding community, creating a dynamic viewing experience lost in boring, sterile NFL stadiums.

Here are the schedule and game locations for the 2024 playoff.

  • December 10-December 12: Home games on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the #5, #6, #7, and #8 seeded team host.
  • December 20 and 21: Doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday nights. #1, #2, #3, and #4 seeded team host. Yo
  • December 27: Semifinals at the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. If we will have Bowl Games in the playoff,  alternate it between the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, and Chick-fil-A Bowls (or be bold and keep these at the highest-seeded venues).
    Note: be bold!
  • January 4 National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl. Put this one at 5 o’clock so the television folks can have the sunset over the San Gabriel mountains in the third quarter. If the Rose Bowl isn’t happy, I am sure SoFi and Allegiant Stadium will gladly take their place.

This condenses the calendar but beats the current schedule. The current schedule doesn’t have a champion crowned until January 20. That’s just too long. Not only does it expand and keep the Transfer Portal open, but it will also conflict with those upperclassmen wanting to declare for the NFL draft. This schedule also keeps CFB at the top of the conversation throughout December.

Transfer Portal: December 1- January 1

The Transfer Portal remains in its current state. Players are provided with a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal. It will also open for 30 days as head coaching changes arise. This cannot change; it’s an essential part of roster management for coaches, and the courts would have a field day if you or the NCAA tried to take this leverage away from players.

Reclaim February National Signing Day

National Signing Day has become almost an afterthought with the December Signing Day. Our best estimate is that probably 75% of the players would use the August signing. The remaining 25% would likely be the high 4- and 5-star recruits. This would help recreate more of the NSD buzz and allow high school players to make a more informed decision based on what teams did in the December portal period.

March-April: Spring Ball

This week, we saw Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliot step down two days into Spring Ball to take the d-line job at South Carolina. This was an odd move, but he was far from the only D1 head coach to step down for a lesser role on another college team or in the NFL. Let’s have a uniform Spring Ball period in March and April. As a conference, the SEC could stagger the start dates to allow Spring games to be staggered throughout April. Schools could again use the Thursday-Saturday window to ensure their Spring games are on the SEC network. Spring practices could also coincide with NFL pro days. This allows NFL coaches and scouts to double dip at the pro day and there for a Spring practice.

May: Spring Portal and Schedule Release

The Spring portal would open again for a 15-day window, from May 1 to May 15. College football already has a Spring window, so there is no reason to get rid of it and risk a lawsuit. After the portal closes, teams can announce the dates and times for the upcoming season. This was done this year in that December window and was lost in the noise. The NFL makes a day of the schedule release no doubt that the SEC could do the same.

This calendar spreads out news throughout the year. For coaches and players, it provides them windows to focus on games, roster management, and talking season. For the media, the calendar gives an ebb and flow to the calendar and provides for better narratives and storytelling.

Photo Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

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