SEC ADs react to league's decision to shift to conference-only schedule for 2020 college football season
Big news out of the Southeastern Conference on Thursday as the conference has made the decision to go to a conference-only schedule and plans to play a 10-game schedule this fall.
The SEC has also made the decision to push the start of the season back to Saturday, Sept. 26 and has pushed the 2020 SEC Championship Game back to Dec. 19.
The league’s decision on what that means for each individual schedule has yet to be determined, although Paul Finebaum did report on the schedule he was hearing about immediately as the news was breaking live during his Thursday show.
Following the league’s decision, several of the athletic directors from around the league have issued statements in response to the news:
Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart:
I support the decision to move to conference-only games, though we are disappointed we won’t have the chance to compete for the Governor’s Cup. The series means a great deal to this state and we look forward to working with Louisville to continue the series in years to come.
— Mitch Barnhart (@UKMitchBarnhart) July 30, 2020
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork:
“This is the right decision for the SEC, our athletics program, and most importantly the well-being of our student-athletes. Given the evolving nature of the current health challenge and the potential variables our University faces when thousands of students return to College Station, we believe a late September start for college football gives our students, student-athletes, staff, coaches, and university community the safest environment possible. An ‘SEC-only’ schedule gives us clarity, hope, and optimism as we approach the weeks and months ahead.
According to Bjork, the Texas A&M-Arkansas game is moving to College Station:
“In the near term, we will be releasing specific details of our Kyle Field capacity plan that follow Governor Abbott’s executive orders, and will provide options for season ticket holders, students, and fans so they can experience Texas A&M and SEC football in 2020. We will also work with the University of Arkansas and officials at AT&T Stadium to officially move our game to Kyle Field since we are the designated home team for this season.”
Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer:
“Today’s announcement by the Southeastern Conference provides important clarity as it relates to the 2020 football season. The league office is currently developing a revised schedule.
“A tremendous amount of thought and discussion went into making what we believe is a responsible decision on scheduling format, and it’s exciting to be making progress toward competition. Our student-athletes and coaches are working hard to prepare while prioritizing health and safety. There are still several logistical unknowns, but we appreciate Vol Nation being patient and sticking with us as we continue to work through these unique circumstances.
“Our next important reference point is a decision on capacity at Neyland Stadium. We plan to coordinate with state and local officials on gameday attendance, understanding that potential limitations could change from week to week once the season begins. This underscores the importance of the public practicing healthy habits statewide.
“We’ve been working through plans for several different capacity scenarios and ticket allocation strategies and aim to communicate specifics once details are finalized.
“Conversations remain ongoing at the NCAA and conference level regarding fall plans for Olympic sports.”
Georgia President Jere. W. Morehead:
“It was clear in our meeting today that this delay would be beneficial to our student athletes and promote the safe and orderly return to campus for our student body in August. Having some separation between the earlier reopening of our campuses and the later start of the football season should be helpful.”
Florida AD Scott Stricklin:
“The safety of our student-athletes, staff and fans will remain the top priority as we navigate the return to collegiate athletic competition,” UF athletics director Scott Stricklin said. “We will continue to lean on the advice of the SEC Medical Task Force, UF Health, CDC, Campus and state health officials as we develop safety protocols and stadium capacity guidelines.”
The SEC Football Championship Game will be played Dec. 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, rescheduled from the original date of Dec. 5. The schedule will include one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on Dec. 12 for all schools.
“Once we have an idea of what our attendance capacity could be, we will release our ticketing and seating plan and communicate that to our 2020 season ticket holders,” Stricklin added. “That plan will include multiple, flexible options for 2020 and whatever option they choose, their season tickets will be available for them to renew in the 2021 season.”
Alabama AD Greg Byrne:
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) July 30, 2020
Mississippi State AD John Cohen:
“Health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff remain the first and foremost priority of both the SEC and Mississippi State. While we are disappointed that we won’t be able to engage in a traditional non-conference schedule for our fall sports, we fully support today’s decision and plan by the SEC, which is an important step toward providing our student-athletes with the opportunity to resume competition this fall. We appreciate the leadership of Commissioner Sankey, SEC member institutions, public health and safety officials and numerous other individuals during this process. We will provide additional details on our adjusted schedule when they become available. Although no decisions have been made on fan attendance at this time, we will provide that information once those details are determined. We appreciate the maturity, flexibility and perseverance of our student-athletes, coaches, staff, and the entire MSU Family during these last five months and as we move forward.”