(Stats Perform) – This year’s annual FCS Kickoff appears back to being the first game of the college football season – the kind of spotlight that was intended when it was first held in 2014.
But will the game happen in a mere 16 days?
Austin Peay, the defending Ohio Valley Conference co-champ, and Central Arkansas, the defending Southland Conference co-champ, are scheduled to meet on Aug. 29 at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. FCS Kickoff officials continue to promote what would be the first game during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All but one other Week Zero matchup in Division I has been canceled or moved to a later date, and the other one – Marshall at East Carolina – is in the process of a switch. In a normal year, FCS schools would crave the national TV spotlight as the season’s first game.
The Southland on Thursday became the 11th FCS conference out of 13 overall to postpone its league schedule to the spring semester, but it will allow members to play limited nonconference games this fall. Dr. Brad Teague, Central Arkansas’ athletic director, said after the Southland announcement his team would play a reduced schedule, including the FCS Kickoff.
OVC presidents were scheduled to meet Thursday and perhaps vote on their conference’s direction. If they allow games outside the conference, it would include Austin Peay versus Central Arkansas.
Some of the dwindling number of D-I schools that will compete this fall have been moving back the start of their schedules while they continue to assess health conditions, especially during the return of students to campuses. Even the usually crowded Week 1 schedule over Labor Day Weekend is much smaller, but it includes Austin Peay at Cincinnati on Sept. 3.
The Cramton Bowl is a tough draw for this year’s FCS Kickoff even if full capacity had been allowed because the neutral site is about 325 miles from Austin Peay’s campus and nearly 500 miles from Central Arkansas’ campus. The game was originally scheduled to be played Sept. 19 at Central Arkansas – a 366-mile trip for Austin Peay – before it became the Kickoff and was shifted to Montgomery.
Central Arkansas has since scheduled a Sept. 19 matchup at Arkansas State. If the OVC postpones its conference schedule, the first mutual open date for the two FCS Kickoff opponents is Sept. 12.