SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he had a productive meeting with the league’s 14 athletic directors Monday in Birmingham, but that any decisions regarding the 2020 football season, and the other fall sports, remain on hold until later this month.
“It is clear that current circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve and we will continue to closely monitor developments around the virus on a daily basis,” Sankey said. “In the coming weeks we will continue to meet regularly with campus leaders via video conferences and gather relevant information while guided by medical advisors. We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us.”
Sankey said later on the Paul Finebaum Show that the league has more time to make better decisions about the season, but that time is starting to run short. What happens over the next few weeks will ultimately determine whether or not there will be a SEC football season this fall, he said.
“One thing one of our faculty members said in April is take as long as you can to make major decisions because you will have better information,” Sankey said. “My comments over the weekend (on radio about not feeling positive about the season) are an indication that the (Covid-19) trends are not what we desired, not what we had experienced a bit earlier this summer. They’re very much in the wrong direction. That’s problematic.
“That doesn’t mean that’s the finish line, that things will never change. And so, what we’ve identified is an opportunity in late July for an important check-in to see what our public health reality is.”
Sankey said there is no set date to make a decision on the fate of the season.
“Not that I would specify,” he said. “We’re going to be patient.”
Sankey said the SEC is closely monitoring the professional sports that have reopened and those that are set to reopen in the coming days to see how things are handled and how they play out.
“We saw Major League Soccer come back this weekend,” he said. “I’ve read their protocols. Major League Baseball is active, set to open July 23. We’ve read their protocols. A NASCAR race Wednesday is in what was a football stadium in Bristol, Tenn., with 30,000 fans in attendance. All of those are rare important learning opportunities.”
While the SEC is holding off on any decisions about the football season, the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced last week that their schedule will consist of conference games only.
The SEC has not reached that point, Sankey said.
“We are not at that destination,” he said. “A number of our colleague conferences are not at that destination. The Big Ten made its decision. We have no common games with the Big Ten this year, so the impact of their decision is indirect.
“We did have two games with the Pac-12 — the USC-Alabama game and Colorado and Texas A&M. We’ve had minimal direct impact on our schedule.”
Although the cases of COVID-19 have spiked dramatically in the SEC region, Sankey said the league will remain patient and see where the trend is a few weeks from now.
“Plenty of people can say you should say it’s not going to happen, make predictions,” he said. “I go back to (New York) Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo in June, who said, ‘I’m done with predictions. I’m done with the models. We’re going to take a look at the facts.’ And that’s what we’ve been doing diligently for months and will do for the next few weeks.
“That’s the beauty of time. It’s an asset. It’s slipping away. It’s rapidly slipping away. From a metric standpoint, we’ve talked about what are the right evaluative tools. Our campuses are doing the same.
“The fact that we’ve seen increasing cases over the past few weeks across our region is not a positive indicator.”