Assuming the Ivy Is Cancelling Out Of Conference Games, Here's How Patriot League Can Have 9 Game Season
The Patriot League could very well be in a huge bind assuming the Ivy League goes forward with their college football restart plans.
According to Mark Blaudschun of TMG Sports, the Ivy League is considering two plans for their 2020 college football season - neither of which allow for any out of conference games.
13 out-of-conference games involving Patriot League teams would be on the chopping block, and when you add to it the Patriot League presidents' guidance to not fly to games, every single member of the Patriot League is affected. If you add to that the fact that the opening of the college football season is going to at best start in late September (yes, you read that correctly), the Patriot League would count as one of the most deeply affected by Covid-19-influenced delays and decisions in the entire college football landscape.
It is a bind to be sure - but not one that should see the Patriot League cancel the 2020 football season.
If we start with the assumption that the season will start late at best, and we assume that the TMG Sports report is accurate (and nobody has come forward to deny the basic thrust of the report), it should be possible to craft a nine-week Patriot League football season with seven league games and two out-of-conference games. There are a lot of moving parts, and the Patriot League would need some partners. But it should be possible.
To me, the first, most important part is to find a partner school in the Patriot League footprint to be an 8th team in scheduling.
A schedule with 7 teams, of course, will have one team each week with a bye week or non-conference game. If a partner could be found that has the flexibility to modify their schedules accordingly, that would be ideal.
Marist, like the Patriot League, has a very big problem. The non-scholarship Red Foxes play in the cross-country Pioneer Football League, and like Patriot League schools are seeing their out-of-conference game schedule seriously upended.
As of right now, they have two games against Ivy League schools that seem likely to be cancelled (vs. Dartmouth and Cornell) and have four league games that require their team to board commercial flights (at Stetson, at Butler, at Morehead State, at Drake). Is it reasonable to assume that Marist's entire season is in jeopardy of not being played? I say yes.
If so - Marist could choose instead, perhaps only for this season, to become a critical travel partner for Patriot League schools. All seven schools are within bus distance, and Marist was already planning on playing Georgetown anyway. If Marist were to suspend their Pioneer League schedule for 2020, they could have a much safer, much cheaper, 2020 season with seven guaranteed games against Patriot League competition.
In 2021 and beyond, a world where hopefully Covid is under control, they could resume their Pioneer League schedule as normal. But this would allow Marist to have a season in 2020 whereas they were in danger of not having one at all. And that would help the Patriot League fill out a schedule.
Important Piece No. 2: FBS Schools
The other $64,000 question in regards to schedules are the FBS schools that are currently on Patriot League schedules.
September 4th, Colgate at Western Michigan
September 4th, Bucknell at Army
September 12th, Fordham at Hawaii
September 12th, Lafayette at Navy
September 19th, Colgate at Syracuse
October 31st, Holy Cross at Boston College
The Patriot League presidents' guidance seems to mean Colgate/Western Michigan and Fordham/Hawaii are cancelled, even if, for some reason, Colgate, Western Michigan, Fordham and/or Hawaii refuses to say so. Let's just assume, since it is impossible for those games to happen without a flight, they cannot happen in 2020.
The others are more interesting - but based on the fact that Patriot League athletes are returning to campus at the same time as other students, it seems likely that most of the games pre-September 19th are at best going to be rescheduled.
Bucknell/Army and Lafayette/Navy are the most intriguing because in all other sports, Army and Navy are Patriot League members. Might the schools try to reschedule later in the year?
Lafayette/Navy seems pretty problematic because as their schedule stands now, Navy does not have any bye weeks from September 26th and onwards, and are committed to AAC games.
But Bucknell/Army might be able to be reshuffled since they have two slots on their schedule: October 10th (the week Princeton was scheduled to play them) and October 31st (their original bye week). Bucknell is scheduled to play Lafayette on the 13th and Colgate on the 31st. With some shuffling, it could be possible to reschedule the game to one of those two days.
The final questions involve Holy Cross/Boston College and Colgate/Syracuse.
Without a doubt Holy Cross fans, administrators and coaches certainly will want to contest this game against their ancient Rivals if Boston College is willing - and as of now, it seems like they are. If the Eagles pull the plug on this game, it would have deep-reaching effects on any Patriot League schedule - and it's not clear that Holy Cross could pull together an opponent quickly on that date either.
Colgate/Syracuse is a similar Rivalry dynamic, and Syracuse could in theory reschedule their game against the Raiders for October 10th, if Lehigh/Colgate scheduled for that day could be moved.
I think it's fair to say that for Colgate, Bucknell and Holy Cross, if at all possible they can contest those games, they will. The question is whether Syracuse, Army, and Boston College are willing to work with them. They probably have other fish to fry, but perhaps these games can still work. I can't see Lafayette/Navy working unless it's contested the week after Thanksgiving or the AAC cancels some games.
Important Piece #3: One More Out Of Conference Game
The final piece of the puzzle is the addition of one out-of-conference game to get to a 9 game schedule. Some schools can come up with one, or have one already. But do all of them?
The decision by the Ivy League to cancel their out or conference games allow for the possibility of the Patriot League to swoop in and replace those gaps in many instances, but not all.
Below, I've drawn up a potential 9 game schedule starting on September 26th. Moved games are highlighted, originally-scheduled games are in regular font, and new games (for example, the ones vs. Marist) are highlighted in italics. (This is not an official schedule by any means - but it shows how one could be done, especially assuming other schools will be looking to do the same sort of 9 game no bye week schedule.)
New Hampshire at Colgate
Fordham at Monmouth
LIU at Lehigh
*Lafayette at Bucknell (rescheduled from October 10th)
Georgetown at Towson (replaces Dartmouth at Towson)
Holy Cross at Marist
*Lafayette at Fordham
*Georgetown at Colgate
Marist at Lehigh
Holy Cross at Rhode Island (replaces Brown at Rhode Island)
Howard at Bucknell (replaces Howard bye week)
Fordham at Wagner
Bucknell at Army (rescheduled from Sept 4th, replaces Army's cancelled game vs. Princeton)
Colgate at Syracuse (rescheduled from Sept 19th, replaces Syracuse's bye week)
*Lehigh at Holy Cross (rescheduled from Sept. 12th)
Georgetown at Delaware (replaces Delaware bye week)
Central Connecticut State at Lafayette (replaces CCSU at Columbia)
Marist at Sacred Heart (replaces Sacred Heart at Penn)
*Fordham at Bucknell
*Holy Cross at Georgetown
*Colgate at Lehigh (rescheduled from October 10th)
Marist at Lafayette
*Bucknell at Georgetown
*Holy Cross at Colgate
Lehigh at St. Francis (PA)
Fordham at Marist
Merrimack at Lafayette (replaces VUL at Merrimack game)
*Georgetown at Lafayette
*Colgate at Bucknell
*Fordham at Lehigh
Holy Cross at Boston College
Marist at Villanova (replaces Villanova bye week)
*Holy Cross at Lafayette
*Georgetown at Fordham
*Bucknell at Lehigh
Colgate at Marist
*Fordham at Holy Cross
*Lafayette at Colgate
*Lehigh at Georgetown
Marist at Bucknell
*Lehigh at Lafayette
*Colgate at Fordham
*Bucknell at Holy Cross
Georgetown at Marist (rescheduled from September 5th)