The Colonial Athletic Association will play a six-game conference schedule that includes the option for schools to add up to two nonconference games during a 2021 spring season, the league announced on Wednesday.
The conference will use a North/South divisional format, with all six league games against division opponents. The team with the best overall conference record will be the CAA's automatic qualifier to the FCS playoffs. Should the divisional champions finish with the same record, a tiebreaking policy will be used to determine the automatic qualifier.
The CAA spring season will run from March 6 to April 17, with each team receiving a bye week during the seven-week time frame. Schools can schedule "nonconference" games against other CAA members, but those games would not count toward the conference standings and the outcome would not be used in the tiebreaking procedures. Based on NCAA guidelines, teams are allowed to begin nonconference competition as early as Jan. 23.
The makeup of the divisions and the final conference schedule will be announced in the next several weeks.
"All of our institutions know that today's announcement is simply the first step in the planning process associated with playing football on each of our campuses in the spring," CAA commissioner Joe D'Antonio said in a prepared statement. "Each member institution, as well as the conference office, has additional protocols that must be finalized and approved in order to ensure a safe return to the field. Our goal in creating this unique scheduling format was to implement a competitive model while also trying to reduce the risks associated with travel as much as we could."
On July 17, CAA football announced its decision to suspend conference competition this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, the conference expressed a strong commitment to conducting a football season in the spring of 2021, and the institution's athletic directors have worked closely with conference staff to make that happen.
The NCAA Board of Directors recently approved a revised format for the FCS playoffs, which will feature 16 teams with 11 automatic qualifiers and five at-large berths. The playoffs will begin on Saturday, April 24, with a champion determined in Frisco, Texas, on May 14, 15 or 16.
"It's been an extremely difficult and challenging time, but it's nice to be able to give our coaches, student-athletes and fans something to look forward to," D'Antonio said in his statement. "Health and safety remain at the forefront of every decision we are making, and we are hopeful about getting the spring 2021 season underway."