Report: SEC adopts conference only, 10-game college football schedule for 2020
The Southeastern Conference is forging ahead with a conference-only college football schedule for the 2020 season, as first reported by Sports Illustrated.
The outlet reported that SEC presidents on Thursday adopted a proposal to play a 10-game schedule this fall, featuring only teams from inside the conference. The SEC has now confirmed the news.
The plan adopted Thursday would see the season start on September 26, three weeks later than previously scheduled.
The SEC Championship would still occur as originally scheduled on December 19.
SEC football seasons normally include eight conference games. The new plan, which comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, would feature two more interdivisional games. This means that SEC West teams such as the University of Alabama and Auburn University would each play two more SEC East teams than normal.
The schedule includes one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on December 12 for all schools ahead of the conference championship game.
“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,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”
While the SEC now has a new schedule, this still does not mean that the 2020 college football season will definitely be played. Coronavirus hurdles remain and will continue to be discussed in the coming weeks.
“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,” added Sankey on Thursday.
The SEC in a press release stressed the flexibility of its adopted schedule and that the advice of medical experts was leaned on heavily in the plan’s formulation and adoption.
“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 stated. “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.”
UPDATE 4:10 p.m.:
Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne and Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban released respective statements.
“We’ve continued to stay optimistic about having a fall season, and today’s decision to move to a 10-game, conference-only schedule provides us with an opportunity to still compete and move our program forward in the safest way possible,” Byrne remarked. “The health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans has always been at the forefront of our decision making, and we are thankful to now have plans in place that allow us to move forward. We appreciate the hard work of Commissioner Sankey and the SEC staff as well as everyone involved across our 14 campuses to make these collective decisions together.”
Saban commented, “We are pleased to have a plan in place for the Southeastern Conference this season. We believe it is the best option to keep players and staff safe and still maintain the integrity of the season. The safety of our team will be our highest priority throughout the season, but we are also excited that our players will have the opportunity to compete and play this season. I want to thank the leadership from our administration, our medical staff, the SEC and all of the medical experts that are guiding us through this process.”
UPDATE 5:30 p.m.:
Auburn Director of Athletics Allen Greene said in a statement, “The health and safety of our student-athletes, staff and fans remains our top priority. In that spirit, we deeply appreciate Commissioner Sankey’s leadership and the tireless efforts of the Conference staff during ongoing discussions related to fall competition.”
“The Presidents and Chancellors’ decision to implement a 10-game, conference-only schedule for the 2020 football season is prudent and the Tigers are fully supportive,” he continued. “While the format of the football schedule is confirmed, there are many other items related to football and other fall sports that warrant robust discussion, and the leaders in the Southeastern Conference are committed to working through these discussions in a thoughtful manner.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn