TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey will meet with the league’s athletic directors on Monday to discuss various scenarios about the 2020 football season but sounded a grim note on Saturday that there was a reasonable possibility of no season at all without significant changes in the current coronavirus numbers and pandemic-related behaviors.
“Yep … that’s exactly what I said … and have been saying,” Sankey wrote on his Twitter account after an appearance on the Marty McGee radio program on ESPN. “I want to provide the opportunity for college athletics to be part of the fall, but we need to all consider our behavior to make possible what right now appears very difficult. “The direct reality is not good …”
Asked about his level of concern for the upcoming season, Sankey said it was “high to very high.”
Sankey said the SEC continued to work toward a final decision regarding the season in late July, some two weeks away. He said that this week’s decisions by the Big 10 and Pac-12 to play conference games only — a decision that has canceled the Alabama-USC game on Sept. 5 in Dallas, among others, would not accelerate the SEC timetable.
“We put a medical advisory group together in early April with the question, ‘What do we have to do to get back to activity?’ and they’ve been a big part of the conversation,” Sankey said in the radio interview. “But the direct reality is not good and the notion that we’ve politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings. There’s some very clear advice about — you can’t mitigate and eliminate every risk, but how do you minimize the risk? … We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.”
The SEC meeting was scheduled before the Pac-12’s decision Friday to play conference-only games in 2020.
Alabama’s game against Southern California on Sept. 5 will not be played. Alabama was set to receive a $6 million payout for the game at ATT Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne indicated on Friday that Alabama would await a decision from the SEC before pursuing options in the wake of the USC game cancellation and a $6 million loss of its appearance fee for that game.
“As I’ve said before, USC AD Mike Bohn and I had multiple conversations over the last several months, and we were both planning on playing the football game on Sept. 5 in Arlington,” Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said in a statement Friday. “With the Pac-12′s decision to move to a conference-only schedule, we will do our best to adjust. What that looks like is to be determined.”
An official in the ACC told USA TODAY Sports that the league has discussed playing conference-only games, and while those talks had been ongoing the Big Ten’s statement on Thursday should move ahead the ACC’s timeline for a decision.
In a statement released on Friday, the ACC said it would make a decision regarding the 2020 season by the end of July.
“As we continue to work on the best possible path forward for the return of competition, we will do so in a way that appropriately coincides with our universities’ academic missions,” commissioner John Swofford said. “Over the last few months, our conference has prepared numerous scenarios related to the fall athletics season.”
Contributing: Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY