As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in the United States, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey’s concern for 2020 college football season is increasing. Less than two months before SEC teams are set to take the field, the top conference official is now admitting football could be in jeopardy.
The SEC took its first action during the COVID-19 pandemic on May 1 by suspending on-campus clinics and camps. On June 8, with the spread of the coronavirus dipping slightly, the conference allowed student-athletes to return to campus for workouts.
When it felt like things were improving, Sankey hinted that the SEC will decide on its college football season by late July. With cases of the virus spiking across the country, including among SEC teams, Sankey’s hope for the season is fading.
During an interview on ESPN Radio’s "Marty & McGee," Sankey admitted that his concern for the upcoming football season is “high to very high.” Given SEC teams will open their schedules in the first week of September, he also admitted that the conference is "running out of time" to get things done.
It might come down to what type of action the conference takes. A majority of FBS athletic directors anticipate the season being delayed, some conferences have altered their schedules and there is also increased momentum to move football to next spring.
The SEC is the top conference in college football, but it wasn’t the first to make a critical decision regarding football season. The Ivy League canceled fall sports, while the Pac-12 and Big Ten moved to conference-only schedules.
While Sankey is aware of each move other conferences make, it won’t directly affect the SEC. Instead, conference athletic directors and other officials will make the call that is in the best interest of their programs and the athletes. Sankey said, via ESPN's Andrea Adelson:
"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 SEC has already been hit by the coronavirus before full practices even begin. The Florida Gators (11 cases), LSU Tigers (30 players in quarantine) and Alabama Crimson Tide have all been negatively affected by the virus.
If the situation only gets worse and more SEC football players contract COVID-19, it could force the SEC’s hand to make a difficult decision in a few weeks.