Here’s why the Orlando game is (potentially) being moved up from August 31 to August 24.
The 2019 season is college football’s sesquicentennial (that means 150th anniversary)! To celebrate, ESPN is producing a series of programming on the history of the sport, and according to a statement by Florida Citrus Sports, wants to move up Florida vs. Miami to give “Week 0” a big Power 5 game.
Additionally, the game is part of an ever-growing slate of corporate sponsored non-conference games at neutral sites. Moving Florida vs. Miami to August 24 would allow ESPN to air more of these high-profile games in primetime, meaning larger viewership numbers.
Times and channels for Week 1 games are usually released by ESPN at the end of May. Currently the only game with a confirmed time and network assignment is Georgia Tech at Clemson on Thursday, August 29, as part of the ACC Network’s debut.
This is probably good for coaches and players at Miami and Florida (if the NCAA lets them do it).
In order for Florida and Miami to play before the official start of college football season for FBS schools (basically Labor Day weekend), they’ll need a waiver from the NCAA, which was submitted in January, per a statement from Florida Citrus Sports.
NCAA bylaw 17.10.3 states that no program can play earlier than the Thursday before Labor Day.
There are two exceptions: FCS programs playing on national television and any team that has a scheduled game at Hawaii, as well as Hawaii. However, previous waivers have been granted to teams playing overseas (Pac-12 teams played games in Sydney, Australia in August of 2016 and ‘17).
Neither of the official exemptions apply here, nor is there any academic or safety reason for Florida vs. Miami in Orlando to be moved up. But if the NCAA grants the waiver, both schools will essentially receive a third bye week, as the 2019 season will feature two bye weeks for FBS programs already, because of an extra weekend on the calendar.
Extra bye weeks are better for coaches and players, reducing physical and mental stress. As part of the petition, the NCAA would allow the Hurricanes and Gators to start fall practices earlier to accommodate for the proposed August 24 kickoff (the NCAA states that the maximum 25 preseason practices can start no earlier than 29 days before a team’s first game), which does mean shorter “vacation” time for student-athletes.
This is great for people who like to watch tackle football on their televisions.
Having good college football on TV is better than no college football on TV. In recent years, the idea of “Week 0” has grown, as Mountain West teams and high-profile FCS programs like North Dakota State and Eastern Washington have used the weekend before Labor Day to showcase their programs. Adding an extra FBS game — a major Power 5 rivalry at that — is a great way to cap an extra weekend of college football!
Will this mark the start of more “Week 0” Power 5 games? Maybe!
If a waiver is approved by the NCAA, there’s little any of the involved parties can do to argue that building a special “kickoff” weekend is about amateurism or the student-athlete experience. The only incentives here are fiscal. Which is fine! Lots of popular aspects of college football are outright commercial in their design and practice.
This decision could set a precedent. If the NCAA approves Florida vs. Miami, other networks and/or third party games might attempt this kind of move in the future.
And if this starts a trend of scheduling more FBS “Week 0” games, you can expect renewed discussions about the impact on increasing the length of the season for student-athletes, as well as more fodder for and against expanding the schedule (and the Playoff).
More football on “Week 0” would be awesome, but it won’t come without a lot of other questions.