While the college football season isn’t scheduled to start for several months, commissioners, athletic directors and other officials are contemplating different possible plans for the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ideally, the NCAA and all of its conferences would be on the same page. If they don’t agree, however, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey doesn’t see it as an issue. “There is room for different conferences to make different decisions,” he said on Thursday.
“If there’s a couple of programs that aren’t able [to play due to the coronavirus], does that stop everyone? I’m not sure it does,” Sankey said on 1010XL in Jacksonville. “But the ability for us to stay connected, I think, will remain important.”
There were more than 1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Thursday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 61,000 confirmed deaths attributed to the virus. Colleges across the country have sent students home and shifted to online learning instead, and are unsure when students can safely return to campus.
Many SEC schools are located in states that have either lifted stay-at-home orders or are set to do so in the near future. Three states — Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky — are still largely shut down.
“Our hope is that people continue to pursue the healthy course — or taking what I would consider to be radical measures now so that we can get through this, learn treatments, figure out how to manage ourselves socially and then get back to some type of normal function sooner rather than later,” Sankey said.
"Hope is not a plan, but right now the desire would be to have 11 states and 14 institutions moving forward in a collective manner and, as I said, connected nationally so that we can celebrate the return of college sports."
As of now, there are still too many unknowns regarding the upcoming season, making it impossible to predict how it will play out. A majority of athletic directors across the FBS, however, believe that the season will be delayed due to the coronavirus. Most have rejected the idea of playing games with no fans in attendance, too.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby put it in even clearer terms earlier this month, telling Yahoo Sports that there wouldn’t be a football season if students can’t return to campus.
Seeing just the SEC move forward with the college football season while other leagues don’t would be a stunning sight, one that doesn’t quite seem feasible for a number of reasons. At this point, however, Sankey isn’t committing to anything.
“I don’t have to make that decision now,” Sankey told ESPN. “The virus is going to determine what happens.”
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