SEC moves to conference-only 2020 schedule, pushes back start of season – AL.com
The Southeastern Conference made its big move Thursday.
The SEC moved to a 10-game conference-only schedule and shifted the start of the season back to Sept. 26, sources told AL.com.
The schedule change also pushes the SEC Championship Game to Dec. 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The decision comes after the SEC’s presidents and chancellors met virtually on Thursday to discuss scheduling options. The league’s athletic directors had a similar meeting on Wednesday where a consensus emerged around a 10-game conference-only schedule.
“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,” Sankey said in a statement after AL.com broke the news. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”
The SEC isn’t expected to abandon its SEC East and SEC West divisions the way the ACC did with its 2020 schedule announced on Wednesday. AL.com reported earlier Thursday that the SEC schools already had a good sense of which additional schools they’d have to face in a 10-game conference schedule but that those extra games had yet to be finalized. The expectation is that each SEC school will add two cross-divisional opponents.
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The ACC also added conference games when it unveiled its plan Wednesday but still had one non-conference game included in its hybrid schedule. The SEC’s move to a conference-only schedule eliminates in-state rivalry games like Florida-Florida State and Louisville-Kentucky, and marquee non-conference games such as LSU-Texas and Oklahoma-Tennessee. It could also trigger the force majeure clauses in non-conference game contracts with Group of 5 and FCS opponents.
“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.”
The Big Ten and Pac-12 were the first two Power 5 conferences to move to conference-only schedules earlier this month. After the Big Ten announced on July 9 it was moving to a conference-only schedule, AL.com first reported that SEC leaders expected the conference to have to follow suit.
John Talty is the sports editor and SEC Insider for Alabama Media Group. You can follow him on Twitter @JTalty.