(Gary Stokan Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Several scenarios are in play for the start dates and length of the 2020 college football season as preseason training camp approaches. Last week, the Big 10 and Pac-12 announced that their teams will play a ‘conference-only’ schedule in football. The ACC, SEC and Big 12 are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Marquee non-conference matchups, like West Virginia-Florida State could be taken off the board. As of now, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff classic games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta are on as scheduled. The Mountaineers are set to face the Seminoles on September 5. Georgia will meet Virginia on September 7. And Auburn will face North Carolina on September 12. It remains to be seen if any of those three games will take place.
“Our staff thought I was crazy scheduling three kickoff games this year in a week, which has never been done in college football history. To have COVID-19 on top of it has made it really challenging,” said Peach Bowl CEO & President Gary Stokan.
“But to put things in perspective, there are people going through death, losing jobs, losing businesses and having sickness. This is a challenge but it is a challenge we accept and hopefully we put all three games on and entertain people around the country.”
Decisions on non-conference play could be made soon from the remaining three of the ‘Power 5’ conferences.
“I think the philosophy of the ACC/SEC/Big 12 is they would prefer to play the full season, but they may need some flexibility should there be any cancellations.
“We are just waiting until the end of July for the ACC/SEC/Big 12 to either make a statement that college football is going to be moved back or they are going to play conference-only, ‘Plus-1′ or “Plus-2’. Until then, we will model different scenarios.”
The three-game package could have meant around 200,000 fans pouring into Atlanta over the span of eight days. Even if the games can be played, attendance and revenue will be significantly reduced.
“We went from selling out all three of these games and having a hundred million dollar economic impact in Atlanta, which translates to about $7.5 million dollars in tax revenue to the local community, to potentially having either 25 or 50 percent capacity, hopefully.”
If the ACC decides to go to a ‘conference-only’ setup for the 2020 season, Stokan said the Mountaineers could be paired against another opponent in Atlanta.
“We are throwing Hail Marys out there, trying to keep the thing alive. Hopefully, the conferences will go more than just conference-only. If they go ‘Plus-1’, there is a real desire by the ACC and SEC to play their rivalry games. That is South Carolina-Clemson, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State and Louisville-Kentucky. If they decide to go ‘Plus-1’, we probably lose Florida State because they would play Florida.”