Virginia Cavaliers Football is supposed to open the 2020 season in Atlanta against the Georgia Bulldogs in 54 days. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic rages on across the country, schedules and games are being examined by conferences. The Ivy League and Patriot League are among the conferences that have already said they won’t participate in sports this fall — there is still the option for those fall sports to play in the spring — and the Big Ten and Pac-12 have announced conference-only competition.
The ACC, SEC, and Big 12 are all waiting to the end of July to make an announcement, but don’t be surprised if the ACC ends up going with some sort of hybrid conference-only schedule with some crossover games to keep rivalries alive (like Georgia Tech-Georgia, Clemson-South Carolina, and FSU-Florida).
To that end, we may see an interesting twist with the Cavaliers’ schedule. Virginia’s game against UGA is part of the 2020 Chick-Fil-A kickoff event, which also features games between Florida State and West Virginia (September 5) and North Carolina and Auburn (September 12). All three games feature non-conference matchups, but all six teams come from one of the three conferences that have yet to make an announcement on the upcoming season.
Gary Stokan, the CEO and President of the Peach Bowl, Inc. (which is in charge of the kickoff event), spoke with Bennett Conlin of the Daily Progress on Wednesday (July 15) about potential changes. “We are in a process of waiting until the conferences decide at the end of this month, the ACC and the SEC and the Big 12 what their decisions are going to be,” Stokan told Conlin. “Are they going to push back the schedule? Are they going to play conference-only? Are they going to play conference plus one? We’ve modeled a lot of different scenarios and sent that off to the conferences, hoping that we can get our Chick-fil-A kickoff games.”
If the ACC and SEC come up with a plan that would feature conference play plus one cross-over — thereby keeping some of the existing rivalries in place — that could result in a shakeup to open the season. To preserve rivalries, Florida State, in this hypothetical, would play Florida, and Georgia would use its crossover to play Georgia Tech. Neither North Carolina nor Auburn have a natural ACC/SEC rival, so that game could still go on.
So what does that leave? Virginia and West Virginia without opponents. “In that scenario we’ve said, ‘OK, we can match up West Virginia vs. Virginia in our Chick-fil-A Kickoff game since they’re both scheduled to be there in Atlanta, and then continue with our North Carolina-Auburn game the next week, September 12,” Stokan told the Daily Progress.
Virginia and West Virginia haven’t met since 2002, when the Hoos defeated the Mountaineers, 48-22, in the Continental Tire Bowl. The Cavaliers have won the last three matchups in the series and hold a narrow 12-10-1 advantage in the win column.
There are still a lot of questions about if the season will happen or if it will happen at all, but it’s clear everyone is getting a little creative to try and make it work.