Let’s break it all down in chronological order.
— “Fall ball.” In lieu of the spring practices that did not happen, FCS schools may begin fall ball on Sept. 21. Running through Dec. 31, teams are permitted 12 hours per week, at no more than four hours per day and five days per week. Teams may also begin their preseason or regular season activities at this time, thereby accounting for the FCS teams that are playing this fall.
Any teams thinking of not playing at all in the 2020-21 academic calendar must beware: the NCAA is permitting teams to do fall ball or spring ball, but not both.
“Before engaging in practice in the fall, schools must declare their first contest date,” The NCAA said. “If practice must be paused due to the impact of COVID-19 on the team, missed days may be used later in the window. Fall ball and the preseason practice period (including the two 20-hour weeks preceding preseason practice) must be separated by at least 30 days of noncontact activities, which must include two weeks of discretionary student-athlete time. One of the two required weeks of discretionary time must be the week before the return to countable athletically related activity.
— Spring seasons. Teams are permitted to play up to eight games in the spring, ending on or before April 17. This would put the earliest regular season spring game on Jan. 23.
— Playoffs. The playoffs will begin the week of April 18 — meaning the first games will be April 24, most likely — and conclude May 15. In accordance with other fall sports, the field will be cut down from 16 teams to 24.
“Existing maximum contest limits and normal practice limitations apply,” the NCAA said. “Conference championship games can be added, and the potential for bowl games in the spring also remains. Conferences can start and end their seasons at their discretion, within the limits adopted by the Council. Additionally, schools applying the autonomy legislation must provide a week off at the end of the regular season and/or postseason.”
All changes have been recommended by the Division I Council, but must still receive the rubber-stamp by the Division I Board of Directors.