when does college football start?

College football, a beloved American tradition, captures the hearts and minds of sports enthusiasts across the nation every year. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual spectator, the anticipation for the season to kick off is palpable. But when exactly does it start? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key dates, events, and factors that determine the start of the college football season.

The Basics of College Football

Before delving into the specific start date, let’s establish a foundation by briefly discussing the basics of college football.

College Football Overview

This is a widely popular sport in the United States, featuring teams from universities and colleges competing against each other. The sport is known for its rich traditions, passionate fan base, and storied rivalries. The pinnacle of college football is the College Football Playoff (CFP), where the top four teams compete for the national championship.

NCAA Divisions

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) oversees college football and divides it into three main divisions: Division I, Division II, and Division III. Division I is further categorized into Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

FBS teams are typically larger universities and compete in high-profile bowl games, while FCS teams tend to be smaller schools. The most prestigious and highly televised games, including the College Football Playoff, feature FBS teams.

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Factors influencing the college football start date

Several factors play a crucial role in determining when it will start each year. Let’s take a closer look at these factors.

Academic Calendar

One of the primary factors influencing the start date of this is the academic calendar. Most universities and colleges adhere to a traditional academic schedule, with fall semester classes commencing in late August or early September. This academic calendar shapes the football season’s timeline, as games are typically scheduled around the availability of student-athletes.

NCAA Regulations

The NCAA sets specific regulations and guidelines for the start of the college football season. These regulations ensure fairness, safety, and a level playing field for all participating teams. NCAA regulations dictate the dates for practices, scrimmages, and games, which collectively determine when the season officially begins.

Conference Schedules

College football teams are organized into various conferences, each with its own schedule and rules. Conference schedules can vary, with some conferences starting their seasons earlier than others. For example, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) often kick off their seasons earlier than conferences in regions with more severe winter weather.

Preseason Preparations

Preparation is key to a successful college football season. Teams engage in preseason practices, conditioning, and scrimmage games to prepare for the upcoming season. The duration and intensity of these preparations can impact when the season officially begins.

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The College Football Calendar

Now that we understand the factors influencing the start date, let’s take a detailed look at the college football calendar.

Spring Practices

The college football calendar begins with spring practices. These sessions typically take place in March or April, allowing teams to evaluate their rosters, develop new strategies, and build team chemistry. Spring practices provide a crucial foundation for the upcoming season.

Summer Conditioning

During the summer months, student-athletes engage in rigorous conditioning programs to enhance their physical fitness. Strength training, agility drills, and cardiovascular workouts are essential components of summer conditioning. These programs are designed to prepare players for the demands of the football season.

Preseason Camps

Preseason camps, commonly known as “fall camp,” commence in early August. These camps are intense and immersive, with players and coaching staffs working together to fine-tune strategies and select starting lineups. Fall camp is a crucial period leading up to the start of the season.

Kickoff Weekend

The highly anticipated kickoff weekend marks the official start of the this season. This weekend typically occurs in late August or early September, aligning with the beginning of the academic year at most institutions. Kickoff weekend features a slate of high-profile matchups that garner national attention and set the tone for the season.

Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day weekend often serves as a significant milestone in the college football calendar. It falls at the start of September and is known for featuring marquee games, including matchups between traditional rivals. The long weekend provides an ideal opportunity for fans to gather and celebrate the sport.

Conference Play

Following kickoff weekend and Labor Day weekend, it enters the heart of its season, with teams engaging in conference play. Conference schedules vary, but they typically consist of a series of games against other schools within the same conference. Conference play can extend from September to November, with each game having significant implications for postseason opportunities.

Bowl Season

At the conclusion of the regular season, the college football world turns its attention to bowl season. Bowl games are postseason matchups that feature teams from different conferences. These games often take place in December and January, offering a final chance for teams to prove their mettle and secure bowl game victories.

College Football Playoff (CFP)

The pinnacle of the this season is the College Football Playoff. The CFP consists of two semifinal games and a national championship game. These games typically occur in late December and early January, showcasing the top four teams in the country as they vie for the national championship.

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The Impact of COVID-19

In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the college football calendar. The pandemic disrupted schedules, led to the cancellation of games, and introduced health and safety protocols for players and spectators. The start of the 2020 season, in particular, was delayed, with many conferences opting for abbreviated schedules.

The situation remained fluid, and the pandemic’s effects continued to be felt in subsequent seasons. The scheduling and timing of these events were subject to ongoing adjustments in response to public health concerns.

Variations by Conference

As previously mentioned, the timing of the college football season can vary by conference. Here are some examples of conference-specific variations:

SEC – Early Kickoff

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is known for starting its football season earlier than many other conferences. With a strong football tradition and milder early fall weather in the southern states, the SEC often begins play in late August.

Big Ten – Traditional Start

The Big Ten Conference typically adheres to a traditional start date, with games commencing in early September. This allows for alignment with the start of the academic year at member institutions.

PAC-12 – West Coast Timing

The PAC-12 Conference, with many of its member schools located on the West Coast, tends to start its season in early September. The conference prioritizes warm-weather matchups and minimizing disruptions to the academic calendar.

ACC – Labor Day Weekend Tradition

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) often schedules marquee matchups for Labor Day weekend, contributing to the excitement surrounding college football’s unofficial holiday kickoff.


In the world of college football, the question of when the season starts is a matter of great anticipation. Factors like the academic calendar, NCAA regulations, conference schedules, and preseason preparations all converge to determine the official start date. While traditions and variations exist among conferences, the excitement and passion of college football fans remain constant.

College football start date FAQ’s

When does the college football season typically start?

The college football season typically starts in late August or early September. The exact date can vary from year to year and depends on factors such as the academic calendar, NCAA regulations, and conference schedules.

Has COVID-19 impacted the start date of college football seasons?

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the college football calendar. The start date of the 2020 season was delayed, and subsequent seasons saw scheduling adjustments and health protocols to ensure safety for players and spectators.

What happens after the regular season ends?

After the regular season, It enters bowl season, featuring postseason matchups in December and January. The College Football Playoff (CFP) also takes place during this time, culminating in the national championship game.

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