How college football survived Big Ten, Pac 12 cancellations

John Swofford will never forget the phone call.

It was late on a Tuesday night, Aug. 11, toward the end of one of the wildest days in the modern era of college football. Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 had announced the cancellation of their fall football seasons, with potential plans to play in the spring.

Suddenly, the Power 5 had quickly whittled to the Power 3. And even that was in jeopardy. Big 12 conference leaders spent that Tuesday night hearing from medical experts before making a decision of their own: to play or not to play.

Swofford, the ACC commissioner, anxiously awaited the call about the Big 12’s decision. Finally, the name came flashing across his phone.

Bob Bowlsby.

“When Bob let me know their board [of presidents] voted to continue,” Swofford says, “well, we were pleased to hear that.”

Now, more than two months later, Swofford acknowledges a somewhat long-rumored theory: Without at least three Power 5 conferences committed to playing in the fall, no one would have played.

He’s not alone in that assumption.

“It was a wobbly triumvirate,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says. “Had one of the legs come off the three-legged stool, we would have fallen over.”

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