With several key moves by individual conferences in recent days, the ground underneath the 2020 college football season has begun to shake.
Following the Ivy League’s decision to push fall sports to the spring, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have both announced that they will eliminate non-conference games for the upcoming season. While the SEC hasn’t followed suit or announced a plan of their own, it seems like that’s where things are headed. During an appearance on ESPN Radio’s Marty & Magee, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey described his concern for the upcoming season as “high to very high.”
In his explanation, Sankey said that while the conference has been proactive in seeking out medical advice, they must face reality as COVID-19 cases rise across the country.
“The direct reality is not good and the notion that we’ve politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings. There’s some very clear advice about — you can’t mitigate and eliminate every risk, but how do you minimize the risk? … We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.”
As for a timeline on when we can expect a decision from the SEC, Sankey said late-July while stating they will take their time regardless of the moves made by the Big Ten and the Pac-12.
“That literally is playing out in front of us every day. That’s why I don’t feel any pressure because of somebody else’s decisions. We’re trying to make the right decisions for us, for the Southeastern Conference. It does have an impact because I’ve said publicly we’re all linked nationally, so when other people make decisions, yup, there’s an impact, but also we’re going to look at our situation and make a decision that’s appropriate for the Southeastern Conference and most importantly for the health of our student-athletes.”
The impact of the Pac-12’s decision will affect the SEC as the season-opening matchup between Alabama and USC in Dallas will become a casualty. If either the SEC or the Big 12 makes a similar move, Ole Miss’ season opener against Baylor in Houston will be canceled. The Rebels’ remaining non-conference games for Lane Kiffin’s first season include Southeast Missouri, Connecticut and Georgia Southern.
For Mississippi State, their non-conference slate includes their season opener against New Mexico, an away game at N.C. State, and they’ll host Tulane and Alabama A&M.
“The reality right now is the trends in our region, in our nation, are not in the positive direction for being able to have normal experiences,” Sankey said.
Earlier this week, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves expressed a similar sentiment as he stated that “things are getting worse, not better” just days before announcing additional social distancing guidelines for 13 counties. Friday, the Department of Health reported over 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 and the state’s healthcare system is currently being pushed to its limits.
Kickoff is less than two months away, but instead of raising questions like ‘how will Kiffin and Mike Leach fare in their first seasons?’ or ‘who will play QB in Oxford?’, we’re left wondering what the schedule may look like or if there will be a season at all.