We were pretty sure that the Syracuse Orange’s football schedule was complete back in January, but COVID-19 may wind up complicating matters further and leaving a gap in SU’s September slate.
The Patriot League announced new protocols on Monday that call for players to return to campus at the same time as the rest of the student body. Air travel is also not allowed.
While the flying note won’t affect Syracuse’s September 19 home opener vs. the Colgate Raiders, the return date limitation may create some issues. Former TNIAAM foe Pat Forde notes that the NCAA Division I Council requires six weeks of prep time before seasons begin, which means teams would need to be back by early August for a mid-to-late September game — and July for week one kicks.
Colgate has yet to announce if and when classes will start this fall, and the school was sure to emphasize as much in a statement as well. There’s a possibility that online classes could mean they can still start football practice on time. There’s also a chance that the Patriot League opts to adjust some of these protocols given the financial damage losing non-conference pay games could cause to member schools.
So like most around COVID, things can change on a dime and no one really knows what’s going to happen next. But the way it looks now, there are several paths this situation could follow:
1. Colgate gets a waiver or the Patriot League changes its rulings to protect non-conference games
In that case, no worries. Syracuse still hosts the Raiders to open up the refurbished Dome.
2. Colgate has to postpone to a future year, but bowl games aren’t an issue
Either Syracuse gets a waiver at 5-6, they aren’t even close to bowl eligibility or there are no bowls so it doesn’t matter what their record is anyway. This means the week three date stays empty... which sounds simple until you realize it also means the Orange are on the road for the entire month of September, given the week four game at Western Michigan. Honestly, no matter how improved SU may be this season, that could be a disaster.
3. Colgate has to postpone, and Syracuse needs to fill the spot
This is the toughest alternative, but also more preferable to a bye in week three and three straight road games to start the year.
The Patriot League’s policy here would mean games beyond just SU vs. Colgate get cancelled as well. William & Mary, Yale, Columbia and Penn are all stranded by the move too, and the the first three were already set to be on the road anyway.
Ivy teams don’t really play games vs. FBS competition, so it’s likely Yale and Columbia are out. That means William & Mary is the top choice, but the Tribe already have a week one FBS game at Stanford. Would they go for two? Syracuse would likely have to shell out a ton to make it happen.
Obviously other cancellations can happen elsewhere to open up more spots, but for now, this is not ideal. The Orange are likely paying a a ton to make it happen, in any case.
Let’s not panic just yet, but schedules across the country may be tossed up in the air shortly. Hopefully Syracuse is ready to react quickly.