Current SEC policy:
After canceling the Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament Thursday morning, league commissioner Greg Sankey held a news conference Thursday afternoon inside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and firmly announced the cancellations of the upcoming SEC gymnastics and equestrian championships.
So where does SEC spring football stand in this world of shuttered sporting events from professional to high school levels due to concerns regarding the novel coronavirus?
As of Thursday night, it was still in existence while every spring sport within the league has been suspended until March 30 and had its NCAA championship canceled. Tennessee held a closed workout Thursday afternoon, its second practice of the spring, and Alabama is scheduled to begin its 14th spring under Nick Saban on Friday.
“What we’ve said is that the presidents/chancellors level will delegate authority to our athletic directors to make some of these operational decisions,” Sankey said. “We’re not all at the destinations at this time, and we may not govern every one of those elements. In fact, the NCAA may need to engage and quickly govern some of those elements.”
Auburn and Florida were scheduled to start spring practice Monday, but Auburn announced Thursday night that it will postpone its start. Georgia is set to begin Tuesday.
Spring football not only involves the 15 practices allotted by the NCAA but spring games that have grown in stature since Saban took over in Tuscaloosa. The SEC announced Wednesday night that the basketball tournament and spring sports would have restricted attendance before those plans were revised, but the league has yet to implement a strategy for spring football games.
Georgia’s first G-Day contest under Kirby Smart in 2016 set a league record with 93,000 fans.
“We’ve limited the size, clearly, of on-campus events, and our campuses are doing that individually,” Sankey said. “I don’t have a prescriptive list right now around what’s going to happen with spring practice and spring football.”
The SEC has taken the stance of suspending all on-campus and off-campus football recruiting for the remainder of March.
In other words, all sports related activities, including recruiting, have been shut down — except for spring practice. Which is kind of interesting, no?
Georgia is leaving this up to its head coach.
While the spread of the coronavirus in the United States is having a major affect on sports all over the country, it’s not hampering Georgia football as of now. According to J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity, who spoke with Dawgs247 via telephone, the Bulldogs are permitted to resume on-campus practices as usual. That means that as of right now, UGA will begin spring football practice on March 17.
McGarity says the decision is ultimately up to Kirby Smart on whether he wants to suspend the start of spring drills or not and the two have not yet spoken or come to a decision on that.
Now, that was said before the school reversed course and announced classes would be closed until month’s end, so I don’t know if that would change the calculus behind spring practice or not. But if the powers that be find it prudent to keep students away from Athens for the time being, what’s the rationale for spring practice? Here’s a quote from McGarity ($$) about that:
“Some of the discussion centered around it may provide a more quarantined environment if you’ve got these individuals together,” McGarity said. “So there’s different levels of concern. I know all the medical staffs on each campus are certainly in tune with this issue, and they’ll be monitoring like they have been. So I think all these things come into play. But right now schools are able to practice as they desire.”
How that’s any different from, say, letting basketball teams play a tournament inside an empty arena, is something I can’t explain. Nor does it sound like something Sankey or McGarity can, either. But there it is.
UPDATE: Things changed.
I’ve got to say that, as a sports fan, this has been the most “life comes at you fast” week of my life.