There is so much to unpack from this deep dive into what Sankey and the 14 SEC ADs discussed Monday. A few choice quotes:
- “Barring a full, 12-game schedule, three models emerged as strong possibilities with league power brokers: an eight-game conference-only schedule and a nine or 10-game plan that would preserve at least one scheduled matchup with a Power 5 conference program.”
- “The SEC has already lost two Power 5 games with the Pac-12’s decision to hold a conference-only season: Alabama-USC and Texas A&M-Colorado. The league is attempting to preserve its remaining 13 Power 5 conference games, including the aforementioned four Sept. 12 games and most notably the four traditional rivalries with the ACC: Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson and Kentucky-Louisville. The other five games are Arkansas-Notre Dame, Georgia-Virginia, Ole Miss-Baylor, Missouri-BYU and Vanderbilt-Kansas State.”
- “Despite rising case numbers nationwide, with many hotspots in the SEC’s 11-state footprint, the consensus among administrators is that their communities and athletes are strongly in favor of playing football this fall.”
- “In a 10-game all-SEC slate, teams would keep their scheduled eight conference games while adding two more teams from the opposite division. In this scenario, an SEC team would play all but three of its conference members. One athletic director described this plan as laughable. Even a nine-game conference-only schedule is getting pushback from league administrators, the AD says.”
- “Some SEC decision-makers question the logic of a conference-only schedule. A few conference games call for long, expensive trips – such as South Carolina-Texas A&M and Florida-Missouri – while several non-conference, non-Power 5 affairs are regionalized. Auburn has a game with Southern Miss, and Mississippi State hosts Alabama A&M. South Carolina has both East Carolina and Coastal Carolina on its schedule, and Texas A&M plays North Texas.”
- “Meanwhile, many SEC leaders are vehemently against a spring season, describing it as a “last resort” and a “fallback measure” that poses a range of issues…”
Not exactly an emerging consensus there. Instead, it sounds like a struggle between money and player safety. As for which wins out…
Many of these contingency models call for the elimination of games against Group of 5 and FCS teams. These are often referred to as “buy games” because SEC teams pay steep prices—sometimes as much as $1.5 million a game—to their traveling competitors. In fact, SEC teams in 2017 paid out more than $45 million in buy games, according to school NCAA reports obtained by SI. This year, Georgia is the only SEC school with two Power 5 programs on its schedule. All other teams play three games against Group of 5 or FCS squads. SEC teams could owe millions to those smaller clubs for cancellations. However, there is a potential out. In at least some game contracts, a change in “league scheduling format” could free an SEC team from its contractual responsibility, several administrators told SI.
That legal language still could meet opposition from snubbed Group of 5 and FCS opponents if the SEC does move ahead with any non-conference games. If the league can play Power 5 opponents, the thinking goes, why can’t it play the others? Or at least honor the payout written into the game contract? From the standpoint of avoiding legal battles over millions in guarantees for games that don’t happen, the SEC might be better off with no non-conference games at all.
There you go — Georgia shedding its rivalry game with Tech in order to have a defense to being sued by ETSU for its guarantee is about as good a summary of 2020 as you can imagine.