The Southeastern Conference has moved its football teams to a league-only schedule for the fall of 2020, announced Thursday afternoon. With the move, each SEC football team will play ten games and the two two squads will move on to the SEC Football Championship Game in December.
With the elimination of non-conference games, the league will open play on September 26, with one open date during the year and another on December 12,. The SEC Football Championship Game has also been moved from December 5 to December 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Plans for whether or not tailgaiting or fan attendance at games will be determined at a later date, depending on how safe it is determined to be.
“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. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”
With Thursday’s announcement, the Big 12 is the lone Power 5 football conference yet to announce its plans for the fall. The Big Ten and Pac-12 will play conference-only schedules for all sports, while the Atlantic Coast Conference announced it would allow teams to play one non-conference game in its home state while adding Notre Dame to its conference for the year.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) July 30, 2020
Sankey characterized the decision to push the season start back and eliminate non-conference play as critical to maximizing the safety of student-athletes and reacting to the ongoing evolution of the coronavirus pandemic.
“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.”
SEC football teams hail from 11 states – Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Coronavirus cases have surged across the region of late, with six among the Top 10 in terms of total cases per 1 million residents by state, led by Louisiana at No. 1 overall in the nation according to tracking on worldometers.info.
Other sports have already seen their start dates pushed back to the end of August at the earliest, with specifics yet to be announced. The league and its member institutions have also promised that any student-athlete who opts out of participating for the year will see their scholarships honored and remain in good standing with their teams.