Commissioners tell VP no football before campuses open

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

 Amid all the uncertainty and unknowns surrounding the coronavirus and how it might impact the 2020 college football season, there has now become some clarity.

 If students aren’t back on campuses attending classes in the fall, there likely will be no college football played in 2020.

 That was the message that came out of a Wednesday teleconference between the Power Five conference commissioners and Vice President Mike Pence.

  “That was the communication that comes out of it,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said on AM-850’s “Tailgate” show Wednesday afternoon. “It’s always important to understand where we are and where we go. Where we are is in mid-April. We have 90 days until SEC Media Days. We have another 45 days (after that) to what is anticipated to be the start of college football season.

 “So, a lot of time to gather information and make decisions. We know from the way our campuses were disrupted that there are fewer absolutes in what that actually means.

 “We all have to be careful and intentional about how we communicate. There’s a lot of information that’s still being gathered. We’re still learning. Essentially, we need to see our universities back up in some form of operation to facilitate everything else that happens around our universities.”

 That, of course, includes football. If students are not back on campus this fall, the start of the 2020 season likely will not begin in this calendar year.

 Back in March, the University of Florida went to strictly on-line classes, telling students to go home if they could. Since then, the school has announced that the on-line only classes will continue this summer. There’s been no decision by UF yet on whether students will be back on campus for the start of the fall semester.

  At this point, the SEC is preparing as if the 2020 season will be going on as scheduled. There have been no serious discussions among Sankey, the conference athletic directors and football coaches about possible contingency plans should things not be back to normal late this summer.

 “My focus is placed on starting football and preparing to begin the football season as currently scheduled,” Sankey said. “We know spring was disrupted. So, summer will look different. Part of the work that has to happen now is to think about what does summer look like?

 “That’s going to be determined by the virus, by treatment for the virus, by testing, by what’s happening around us. Those questions can’t be answered.

 “We’re living in this uncertainty, which is reality that is uncomfortable. It provokes a lot of speculation, a lot of hypothesizing. When I go back to the core, what’s our responsibility right now? It’s to prepare for what’s next and what’s next is the upcoming season.”

 Like the other sports across the globe, the status of college football’s 2020 season will be determined by what transpires with the virus over the next few months.

 “We don’t know what will happen in the fall,” Sankey said. “But we want to prepare. Then when you talk about any number of contingencies, all of which may not be real at any point. The real issue goes back to make sure we’re prepared properly.

 “We also need to see from a public health standpoint, testing expanded, the therapeutic approaches that are identified and when will those be available. I’m not a scientist, so I can’t answer that. That’s a big part of forming our decision making.”