SEC commissioner Greg Sankey on college football season: 'Circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve'

Sam Cooper
·3 min read

The Southeastern Conference plans to wait until late July to make a decision about fall sports, including football.

All 14 SEC athletic directors, plus other conference staff, met throughout the day Monday at the SEC offices in Birmingham, Alabama, to discuss the ongoing issues college athletics face amid the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting, which went from the morning until late Monday afternoon, also included “several external groups and individuals” who participated via videoconference.

It was the first time the conference’s athletic directors have met in-person since the men’s basketball tournament in Nashville was canceled in March just as the seriousness of the pandemic was becoming apparent. In the weeks since, the lingering presence of the virus has put the 2020 college football season in serious peril.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey characterized the meeting as “productive” and pointed to late July as the time frame to make decisions about the football season. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already decided to move forward with conference-only schedules. The SEC said “possible scheduling options” was among the topics discussed Monday.

“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.”

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey testifies before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The hearing is looking at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Governors' recent report on student-athlete compensation and the modernization of rules related to name, image, and likeness commercialization. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey: "It is clear that current circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Later Monday during an interview on the Paul Finebaum Show, Sankey reiterated a point he made over the weekend: public health trends with things like wearing masks and practicing social distancing need to improve.

During a Saturday morning interview with ESPN Radio, Sankey said his concern level about the season is “high to very high” and that we are “running out of time to correct and get things right.”

“The direct reality is not good and the notion that we’ve politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings,” Sankey said. “There’s some very clear advice about — you can’t mitigate and eliminate every risk, but how do you minimize the risk? ... We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.”

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