The Southeastern Conference has summoned all 14 athletic directors to league offices in Birmingham, Ala., next Monday for an in-person meeting to discuss fall sports scheduling, multiple sources told Sports Illustrated.
It is believed to be the first in-person gathering of representatives from the whole conference since the COVID-19 outbreak shut down the SEC men’s basketball tournament March 12.
The meeting has been planned for at least two weeks, SEC sources told SI, and was not in reaction to virus-related shutdown news Thursday across college football. The aim is for commissioner Greg Sankey to gather candid, in-person feedback from each athletic director about how they believe the conference should proceed with fall sports—especially football. Significant decisions are not expected from the meeting. An SEC spokesman declined comment Thursday.
Sankey previously has mentioned “18-20” contingency plans for how to proceed with football season. As the news has turned more dire in recent weeks, the most likely discussion points could be a conference-only schedule—which the Big Ten announced unilaterally Thursday—or a postponement of the season until spring 2021.
At this point, the least likely scenario appears to be a full football schedule that starts on time in September.
“I think spring is more viable than fall,” one SEC AD told SI this week. “What we have currently scheduled is not realistic. If somebody told me we could play conference-only in the fall, that would be great. But I’m not sure we can play one game, let alone a full conference schedule.”
Multiple SEC ADs stressed that a decision doesn’t have to be made immediately, preferring to let the month of July play out and see where the league’s geographic footprint stands in terms of the virus. It’s unknown whether the Big Ten’s decision—which came a day after the Ivy League said it will play no varsity sports in 2020—might impact the SEC’s timetable.
As it is currently constructed, the SEC’s first conference games are scheduled for Sept. 12: Kentucky at Florida and Vanderbilt at Missouri.
Among the non-conference matchups that would be lost by a move to conference-only games: Alabama vs. USC, Mississippi vs. Baylor and Georgia vs. Virginia in week one; Texas at LSU and Tennessee at Oklahoma and Arkansas at Notre Dame in week two; Colorado at Texas A&M in week three; and end-of-season rivalry games matching Florida and Florida State, Georgia and Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Clemson, and Louisville and Kentucky.