They had a meeting for this?
No decisions regarding the SEC football season were made Monday during an in-person meeting of conference officials at the SEC office in Birmingham, Alabama, but commissioner Greg Sankey reiterated that the “critical decisions” will be made later this month, according to a release.
“It is clear that current circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve and we will continue to closely monitor developments around the virus on a daily basis,” Sankey said. “In the coming weeks we will continue to meet regularly with campus leaders via videoconferences and gather relevant information while guided by medical advisers. We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us.”
What are they going to learn in two weeks that they already don’t know? I can only think of one relevant thing.
The athletic directors also discussed scheduling options for fall competition, and Sankey did address the nonconference decisions made by other leagues.
“We have no common games with the Big Ten. The impact of their decision is indirect,” he said. “We did have two games with the Pac-12. We’ve had minimal impact to our direct schedule.”
Tell that to Alabama and the $6 million check that just got flushed down the toilet. But I digress. When the ACC follows the lead of the Big Ten and the Pac-12, that impact will no longer be minimal.
Here’s Sankey’s problem and why he’s procrastinating. On the one side, he’s got this rock:
As of late Sunday night, the mood inside the league is “emphatic” about playing a football season this fall, according to a source at one SEC program. Unlike the Big Ten or Pac-12, there is no consensus among schools who spoke to Banner Society regarding eliminating non-conference games.
And on the other, this hard place:
Here’s the cruel truth about how college football leaders approached football this fall: The entirety of their plan to return was based on hope. Hope that the COVID-19 would go away. Hope that college campuses wouldn’t be a petri dish for the virus. Hope that they could figure out a way to play a contact sport in a time of mandatory social distancing. Hope for a vaccine to keep players healthy and seats full.
Okay, that’s not entirely fair. Nobody expected the virus to “go away”. What they did hope was that, as has been the case in many countries, we’d get a grip on the coronavirus and that some semblance of normal life would resume by the fall.
“The trends are not what we desired, not what we had experienced earlier in the summer. Pretty much in the wrong direction,” Sankey said. “That’s problematic. But that doesn’t mean that’s the finish line.”
Without assigning blame, that simply hasn’t happened. Sankey and his ADs know the COVID happy talk is nothing more than that. But Sankey and his ADs don’t want to be the folks to do this, either:
“Ultimately, no one is playing football in the fall,” said a high-ranking college official. “It’s just a matter of how it unfolds. As soon one of the ‘autonomy five’ or Power Five conferences makes a decision, that’s going to end it.”
So, where does it go from here? In drips and drabs, I’m guessing. Once the ACC drops non-conference play, as it is expected to do, the SEC will have to go the same route. Expect Sankey at month’s end to announce a goal of playing a ten-game conference-only schedule if the trends permit it… and watch that number shrink over time to nine… eight… if they don’t, until some P5 conference announces no fall ball as a matter of last resort.
There’s only so far Sankey can kick that can.