The Patriot League will hold an abbreviated, four-game football season, in addition to playing its other fall sports, starting in mid-March and ending in mid-April.

On Friday, the Patriot League announced a plan to schedule baseball, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball and volleyball during the spring semester. The league did not announce schedules for any sport, only start dates for competition.

“We’re extremely excited about the announcement. We’ve had a lot of discussions as coaches and in meetings with the league,” said Bucknell football coach Dave Cecchini. “The Patriot League has always been honest with and forthright with coaches and student-athletes.”

One of the delays in announcing the football season, Cecchini said, was the decision by Georgetown to opt-out. That leaves six programs playing this spring, so league officials created two divisions. Colgate, Fordham and Holy Cross will play in the North Division; Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh play in the South.

Teams will play each division opponent and two teams from the other division. Games will begin March 13 and end April 17 with a league championship featuring the two division champions. April 10 is an open date for make-up games.

“Consistent with the prioritization of health and safety, the 2020-21 schedule format features a significant reduction in travel and overnight stays,” the league said. “No teams will be permitted to fly to games.”

Cecchini said he expects the Bison to begin practicing around Feb. 12. Players will return to campus about the same time as the rest of the students — Jan. 29. That leaves time for two weeks to transition with workouts and other COVID mitigation before practice begins.

Cecchini said the football calendar has basically been flipped. Last fall, rather than play games, the Bison practiced as they would during the normal spring camp. Throughout the entire fall, Cecchini said there were no positive COVID tests in the program.

“We were fortunate. We had almost all of our players for in-person instruction in the fall,” he said. “After the transition period, we gradually morphed into practice, and our fall period was similar to what spring usually looks like.”

When leagues — even at the FBS level — considered delaying the 2020 season, one of the arguments against it was having players compete in games during the spring season and then return a few months later for the regular fall season.

Cecchini said that remains a concern, but that the risk of injury playing football exists any time a player takes the field.

“It’s not a full schedule, but it is something that is a concern,” he said. “If someone tears an ACL and it needs to be surgically repaired chances are they will miss the fall.”

While Cecchini said the fall was a little “surreal” watching FBS teams play and being home, he is glad his team will have a chance to play, especially the Bison seniors.

“All the hard work and effort they’ve put in — not just in 2020 — to get ready for this season, I’m glad they get to play,” he said. “For our seniors, this is the last time they will play football. Most of them have jobs lined up already. It’s a good feeling that this is finally our chance.”

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