Stony Brook is planning to play an eight-game football schedule with a season opener on or around Feb. 20, 2021.
The schedule will include six Colonial Athletic Association conference games, and the Seawolves plan to play two non-conference games, as permitted by the NCAA, before CAA play begins.
The CAA announced in mid-July that it was suspending fall sports because of complications and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has steadfastly remained committed to playing football at another time in the school calendar.
On Wednesday, the conference said it is in the process of drafting a six-game conference schedule to be played on the seven weekends between March 6 and April 17. The conference will play in North and South divisions with the Seawolves competing in the North. All of its conference games will be against the other five North division foes — meaning it will play one school twice.
"We’ve been talking extensively with other programs that are playing in the fall and we’ve learned a great deal that we will be able to apply next semester to compete safely," Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron said. "There have been things to learn about locker room setup and about sideline setup during a game. Those will be things we can employ and we’ll hope that we’re all in a better place with the virus by the time the season starts."
Heilbron said athletes are on campus and training, though with the limitations dictated by state and local health officials. "We hope that this extra time in training will help get a leg up on preparation and injury prevention," he said.
"We have been preparing since July's postponement announcement with great anticipation to compete this academic year," Seawolves football coach Chuck Priore said in a school statement. "It's obvious that health and safety measures are the way to accomplish this goal. Our players have been awesome with their dedication to all policies and procedures. We will be ready to compete for a CAA championship when the time comes."
At the season’s conclusion, the CAA team with the best conference record will be the automatic qualifier to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The NCAA said this year it will play a 16-team national tournament — with 11 automatic qualifiers and five at-large selections — beginning on April 24 and ending in mid-May.
Stony Brook had a pair of large paydays lined up in non-conference games against Florida Atlantic and Western Michigan, but those are now off the board with those schools' recent decision to play in the fall. The Seawolves’ non-conference foes are expected to be regional and require limited travel. The CAA has said that its teams can play against schools in the other division as non-conference games that would not count toward conference record.
"The priority for us this year is to get back to playing," Heilbron said. "We have a significant game at Oregon scheduled for next season and we will look forward to that and all it means. But getting back on the field is what matters in the here and now."
As to whether spectators will be permitted at SBU games, that will depend on guidance from state and local health officials at the time when the season starts.