I joked about this last night, but maybe I shouldn’t have.
With the college football season seemingly hanging in the balance, the Southeastern Conference is holding firm.
A sense of panic broke across college football Sunday night amid reports of multiple Power 5 conferences moving closer to canceling their fall seasons. Sports Illustrated reported the Big Ten had already been gauging interest in whether other Power 5 conferences were on board for a uniform decision to be announced later this week. Don’t include the SEC in that group, at least not yet.
The SEC isn’t moving toward canceling its fall football season, according to conversations with sources throughout the conference in the aftermath of reports the Big Ten was on the verge of doing so. The conference, which unveiled its 10-game schedule on Friday, prefers to take a wait-and-see approach.
The SEC purposefully pushed back its fall camp start to Aug. 17 and season opener to Sept. 26 to monitor how the other sports, including the NBA and MLB, were handling playing games amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That hasn’t changed. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has done a good job of encouraging the league’s 14 presidents and chancellors to hold the line and be patient, according to sources.
Not said there, but also included in Sankey’s calculations is how other conferences scheduled to begin play before the SEC fare. The question he faces now is how that math works if some or all of his P5 peers bail on him.
But there is undoubtedly a sense of concern throughout the conference on the possible domino effect if multiple Power 5 conferences move to cancel the fall football season. The Big Ten didn’t pull the trigger on that decision Sunday, though Yahoo Sports reported the conference remained “on the cusp of cancelling the season.” The expectation throughout college sports is if the Big Ten jumps first, the Pac-12 won’t be too far behind in joining. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Dallas Morning News no decision had been made though there is a sense around the SEC that the Big 12 is more closely aligned to the Big Ten and Pac-12 than the SEC and ACC. Bowlsby admitted “the last two or three weeks have not been good to us.”
If only the Big Ten moves to spring, there’s no reason why the SEC couldn’t continue on its plan. It gets considerably trickier if the Pac-12 and/or Big 12 join in with the Big Ten. Could the SEC move ahead with just the ACC and possibly some Group of 5 conferences? Sure, though, it becomes a harder and harder sell if the SEC’s peer conferences drop out. There was no confidence around the SEC Sunday night that it’d be willing to be on an island and play fall college football by itself if the other four Power 5 conferences moved to the spring.
I suspect every conference commissioner wakes up in the morning with the first thought crossing his mind being “why the hell didn’t those politicians listen to what we were saying in the spring?”
Sure sucks when hope as an action plan flops.