Why did the Southeastern Conference shift to a conference-only, 10-game schedule?

Well, aside from stating the obvious fact that college football has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey answered that question during his Thursday appearance on “The Paul Finebaum Show.

That is, after the league commissioner made a joke about his league finally expanding its conference schedule.

“First of all people have been clamoring for us to increase the number of conference games,” Sankey joked. “We thought perhaps there would be great celebration at that reality, right?”

When it came down to it, according to Sankey, the SEC wanted to do everything in its power to maximize the chance that the upcoming league title game can be played.

“But it is a recognition that we are in a very different environment, and the importance of a Southeastern Conference championship is primary, for us and for my thinking. A lot of discussion about whether that was the right direction,” Sankey continued. “Ultimately, we announced that decision. We have great respect for the rivalries that exist across the conference, but we don’t know what the fall is going to look like and having the ability to manage our own schedule, we believe gives us the best opportunity to play for that championship, to have our division winners, which is our tradition, and then to have a conference championship game – a few weeks later than originally planned.”

While the league is not yet ready to announce its plans for the upcoming conference schedule, Sankey was willing to shed some light on the league’s plan for bye weeks for the coming season.

“We will provide an open week within the season, that won’t be a common open week,” Sankey commented. “So, if I get into some of the details: we will spread that (bye week), likely over three different weeks, and so if you have early disruption, you have to have – if you will – luck, but it has to fit right.

“If you have to make quick adjustments or an opportunity on the back end of the schedule to play a game that might be displaced. And that’s a recognition of we just don’t know. And so we think it’s important to plan for that right now rather than to hope for the best in this environment because we’ve been disrupted completely and we want to make sure we’re ready for it should it happen for some reason in our season.”

So the plan is to allow two open weeks, one in the middle of the schedule and another at the tail end right before the 2020 SEC Championship Game, to allow for games to be rescheduled if necessary.