(Stats Perform) – The first game of the college football season is always attention-grabbing, but the first in 2020 could draw larger numbers than usual.
That’s how Central Arkansas third-year coach Nathan Brown feels about the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff, where his Bears and Austin Peay will meet on Aug. 29 at historic Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. It is the first game of a fall season in which relatively few schools will play due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FCS Kickoff is in its seventh year as a showcase for the FCS level, and the fourth year in neutral Montgomery. Brown spoke on Monday about this year’s ESPN-televised game (8 p.m. ET kickoff) during “The Zone” program on 103.7 FM The Buzz in Little Rock.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for our program, and it was going to be that way prior to COVID and the situation we’ve got ourselves into with this virus,” he said. “It was a big deal to begin with, and that was one of the allures to the game, the opportunity to spread Central Arkansas’ national brand on a national stage on ESPN. And then things happen and the football season was slowly being taken away by some conferences, different programs. There’s not many teams left standing.
“I told our guys this, ‘It’s going to be a big day,'” Brown added. “I mean, a lot of people are going to be tuning in, one, for the positive side of it – let’s get sports back, we’ve got football back (and) football fans are excited no matter who’s playing. But, two, I think a lot of people will be watching to see what are the mitigation things we do on the sideline, how are they going to respond to social distancing and mask wearing and all those things. Obviously, the super football fans always tune in, but there’s going to be the average fan as well, or just society who’s going to tune in and say, ‘How are they going to do this?'”
The FCS Kickoff is matchup of defending conference co-champs, Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference and Central Arkansas in the Southland Conference, who advanced to the FCS playoffs last season. Central Arkansas scored the final 14 points of the fourth quarter in a 24-16 win over the Governors last Sept. 7 at Austin Peay. The Bears also won the only other all-time meeting in 1975.
In this year’s matchup, Austin Peay will be led by Marquase Lovings, who was named interim coach on July 7.
The OVC and Southland, like all FCS conferences, postponed their league schedules with the hope they can be played during the spring semester, if health conditions are deemed safe.
“The virus is going to dictate a lot of this season,” Brown said. “That’s why we’re doing everything we can in our power to get a full (fall) schedule set, so we have an opportunity to make adjustments along the way and get to those games.”