Given the college football schedules across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SEC announced on Thursday afternoon that it had switched to a conference schedule with only 10 games for the 2020 season. The SEC is also pushing the season start to Saturday, September 26, which was originally planned for week 4 of the 2020 campaign.
With the start of the season postponed to September 26, the SEC championship game will be postponed to Saturday, December 19 for two weeks. This creates flexibility between teams with two options for the makeup games, since the adjusted schedule includes bye-bye week in the off-season for each school and an open date for all programs on December 12, a week before the title game.
It is currently unknown how the SEC will fill in the additional two games of its conference-only schedule, as the league will announce the revised games at a later date. SEC members traditionally play eight conference games per season: six within their respective divisions, a permanent cross-division opponent and a rotation cross-division opponent.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference decision in a press release:
“This new football plan is in line with the educational goals of our universities to enable their students to return to campus safely and orderly, and to create a healthy learning environment in the special circumstances caused by the COVID-19 virus. This new schedule supports the security measures taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities. …
“We believe that these schedule adjustments provide 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 needed when disruptions occur. It is unfortunate that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place under this plan in 2020, but these are unique and hopefully temporary circumstances that require unconventional action. “
The 14 SEC presidents practically met on Thursday to come to this planning decision a day after the league’s sports directors proposed to adhere to a conference-only model.
The SEC joins the Big Ten and Pac-12 by deciding to play a conference-only schedule in 2020. The ACC announced on Wednesday that it will play an 11-game schedule with 10 intraleague competitions and a non-conference game.
It is currently unknown how the SEC decision could affect ACC’s plans, considering four major non-conference rivalry games (Florida-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Kentucky-Louisville) get lost through the step of the SEC. Auburn-North Carolina and Arkansas-Notre Dame were other SEC-ACC games planned for this season. (The Fighting Irish will work as a full ACC member in 2020.)
Other marquee non-conference games with SEC teams that will be lost this season include LSU-Texas and Tennessee-Oklahoma. (Alabama-USC was previously canceled due to the Pac-12 announcement.) The Big 12 has not yet announced firm plans for their 2020 schedules, though losing these games can affect the decision-making process.