Now, though, the lure of television dollars stretches the college season longer than ever, in both directions — from Aug. 24, when Villanova and Colgate played in what has come to be called Week 0, until Jan. 13, when Alabama and Clemson (or perhaps someone else) will play in the College Football Playoff championship. That is nearly five months of Saturday programming (and some for Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, too).
Set against this, the Ivy League schedule is not only quaint, it is a reminder of how the N.C.A.A.’s amateurism model — which is under increasing attack from lawmakers and in the courts — has morphed players from a student-athlete prototype into something more resembling a student-employee, considering how many millions of dollars the players generate for universities.
For example, if ninth-ranked Florida were to reach the championship game, its season would be nearly six months long. (The Gators began practice July 26 and have played four games.)
Contrast that with Ivy League, whose schedule is devised in a simple manner: Circle the Saturday before Thanksgiving for the final game, then count back nine weeks and you have the start date. No byes, no playoff games.
Networks, including ESPN, which signed a 10-year deal with the Ivy League last year, have unsuccessfully prodded the league to start earlier or play midweek games.