The SEC’s football season overhaul and new conference-only schedule gives league members their “best opportunity” to salvage football this fall, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday when the league announced its newest effort to get games played this semester.
The NBA and WNBA are playing in virus bubbles in Florida now, while MLB has seen games delayed after an outbreak among the Miami Marlins. While a college football bubble doesn’t seem feasible for amateur student-athletes, the new conference-only football schedule gives the SEC full control of the season and the power to delay games or move sites however needed to get games in.
Flexibility was at the center of the SEC’s decision to limit competition to conference-only games in the new plan, the conference said in its announcement on Thursday, after that plan was approved by conference presidents then handed to athletics directors for them to finalize the new schedule at a later date.
The move calls off important rivalry games like Georgia-Georgia Tech and Florida-Florida State for the year, but in the league’s thinking, it gives the conference its best opportunity to read and react to how the virus is affecting teams and the country around them day to day.
“We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur,” Sankey said. “It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”
The SEC said its Thursday action was taken after discussions led by the conference’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force, which was comprised of team doctors from all 14 member schools.
“This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus,” Sankey said. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”
The new model also pushes back the scheduled start of competition by three weeks, buying the conference more time to monitor trends and adjust.
Whether the season can actually kick off on the new start date of Sept. 26 remains to be seen, but with a plan in place, the SEC schools have given themselves a chance to still play football this fall.
“After careful consideration of the public health indicators in our region and following advice of our medical advisors, we have determined that this is the best course of action to prepare for a safe and healthy return to competition for SEC student-athletes, coaches and others associated with our sports programs,” Sankey said.