Preseason camp starts next Monday, games are still a little more than a month away and South Carolina football and the SEC continue to move forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Southeastern Conference remains one of six leagues at the FBS level who have yet to postpone football games until the spring. On Wednesday, the Big South Conference, which includes two South Carolina schools in Charleston Southern and Presbyterian, announced it was postponing. On Thursday, the Southern Conference, also an FCS league with South Carolina schools in Wofford, Furman and The Citadel, also announced it was postponing.
Here are the latest news and reports on how the SEC and college football as a whole are proceeding.
NCAA says no fall championships
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Thursday that there will be no fall championship tournaments, as a majority of conferences and programs have now postponed their seasons.
“The board of governors also established if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship,” Emmert said in a video posted to the NCAA’s Twitter. “We can’t in any Division I NCAA championship sport now — which is everything other than FBS football that goes on in the fall. Sadly, tragically, that’s going to be the case this fall, full stop.”
As Emmert said, FBS football doesn’t organize a national championship through the NCAA, so the SEC, ACC and Big 12, among others, can still work towards a fall season. However, women’s volleyball, women’s and men’s soccer, cross country, field hockey and men’s water polo all won’t have national championships. Emmert said sports could try to reschedule for the winter or spring.
Shortly after Emmert’s video, the SEC released a statement from commissioner Greg Sankey saying the conference was reviewing the impact of the NCAA’s move. League teams could theoretically play a regular season this fall and compete for a conference title with no NCAA postseason.
The NCAA Division I Council previously recommended that any student-athletes who can’t participate this season because of the pandemic receive an additional season of competition and an extension of their five-year eligibility window.
Alabama AD talks
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne, one of the most important voices in the SEC, spoke with reporters on Thursday on a broad range of topics. Among them, Byrne said there has been discussion on the conference level about how many positive tests one team would have to report before games have to be canceled or postponed.
“There have been discussions about that,” Byrne said, according to AL.com. “There is not a firm policy in place. I think that’s something that, from a myocarditis standpoint, no. From everything else, I cannot — I’m not trying to be misleading at all — I just can’t give you a good answer on that one right now but those are discussions we’ve had.”
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp has previously said he suggested a threshold of 30 players being unavailable, either due to positive tests or quarantines due to exposure.
The issue of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that has been linked to COVID-19, has become a major factor in conferences’ decisions to play this fall or postpone to the spring. Byrne said Alabama has had no reported cases of myocarditis to date.
Spurrier, Holtz in favor of playing
A pair of former South Carolina Gamecock head coaches have come out strongly in favor of teams trying to play this fall. Lou Holtz, who has previously expressed that opinion, went on Fox News on Tuesday to advocate for that course of action, comparing the risk of playing to the World War II invasion of Europe on D-Day.
And on the Paul Finebaum Show on Wednesday, SEC legend Steve Spurrier also endorsed a return this fall, saying the health and safety protocols in place were strong enough.
“I believe (players) all have a right and deserve to go play the game. They want to play; they want to compete against the other guys. Most people nowadays live, let’s say, 80 years and these young men have 4 years to play college football,” Spurrier said, per Saturday Down South. “You’d hate to miss one here and there if you don’t have to. I hope something can be worked out that the Big Ten could come back. Because only three conferences playing would be a little unusual.”
Greg Sankey: ‘Thorough and deliberate approach’
Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they would be postponing their football seasons with hopes of playing in the spring, they announced Tuesday. In response, the SEC and ACC released statements from their commissioners that conveyed similar messages: We’re not giving up just yet.
“I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes. We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day.”
Ray Tanner says he’s pleased with testing protocols at USC
In a sign of just how chaotic and rapidly evolving the situation is, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner was live on the air with 107.5 FM on Tuesday afternoon when news broke that the Big Ten would be punting on a fall season.
Informed of the decision, Tanner stuck with the SEC line that other conferences’ moves won’t dictate what the league does. Speaking later Tuesday night on SportsTalk SC, Tanner did admit that the Big Ten and Pac-12’s cancellations were “not what we wanted to hear, necessarily.” But he continued to reiterate that South Carolina and the SEC are moving forward and are pleased with their own testing protocols.