How will the SEC Respond to Moves Made by Other Conferences?

Christopher Walsh

Even though we still don't know if playing a season this fall, college football turned into a soap opera this week. 

That was just through Wednesday, too. 

With the end of the month looming on Friday, the sport is running out of time to figure out how to try and approach the 2020 season.

After the Power 5 conferences spent all spring taking about cooperation and working together for the good of the game, we're left with something between the Wild West and a Battle Royale.

In other words, the exact opposite is occurring.

As for how this all happened, taking a step back is required.

Earlier this month, the Pac-12 and Big Ten announced that they were going with conference-only games on the schedule, canceling some big-name matchups including Alabama vs. Southern California in Arlington, Texas. 

On Monday, less than a week into Major League Baseball's 60-game season, the Florida Marlins had an outbreak of the coronavirus — with 18 confirmed cases. Not only did the team suspend play, but it potentially put all of baseball in jeopardy. 

This, of course, brought the concept of isolating players, or "bubbling" into the spotlight as MLB players and owners had rejected the idea. Both the NBA and NHL have gone with it, though, and are on the verge of restarting. 

Bubbling college athletes was thought to not be an option, especially with football. 

“College sports is going to be more akin to what the NFL or MLB is doing, with the fundamental difference in that student athletes are going to be treated as students,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told SI in an interview earlier this summer. “They are only going to be on campus if other students are on campus, so there’s no bubble in the sense people think about it.”

“You can’t bubble college athletes or cocoon them away like the NFL,” Johns Hopkins senior scholar (and infectious disease physician who sits on the NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel) Amesh Adalja told SI's Ross Dellenger. “The fact of the matter is if the trajectories continue, people are going to be infected on campus and interacting with a team. It’s going to be hard to keep them away.”

Nevertheless, according to Pat Forde there is an unnamed school in one of the Power 5 conferences considering taking after the NBA and NHL and putting their athletics programs in a bubble away from other students. That program has not been identified, though. 

On Wednesday, SI reported that the SEC is moving closer to an agreement on a conference-only schedule of 10 games. A majority of athletic directors approved the idea during a virtual meeting, however, the schedule must be ratified by league presidents. 

But then the ACC announced its plan to begin seven fall sports, including football, during the week of Sept. 7-12. With Notre Dame included in the schedule, teams are slated to play an 11-game season, with 10 conference games. 

The league stipulated that each non-conference opponent "must be played in the home state of the ACC institution, and all non-conference opponents must meet the medical protocol requirements as agreed upon by the ACC."

With the ACC springing the announcement, it was obviously trying to one-up the SEC, which if it goes through with its conference-only plan would result in some traditional rivalry games being canceled. They key is the SEC gets blamed.

Of course, if college football doesn't play this fall all of this will be moot. 

So what's next?

That's largely up to the SEC, which had been trying to delay any major decisions until they absolutely, positively have to be made. 

SEC presidents and chancellors are expected to meet virtually Thursday (this morning) to discuss the matter. 

No one knows what to expect other than things are only going to get more turbulent from here.  

Regardless of what the SEC eventually does chances are, especially with the egos involved, it will claim to have not been influenced by the other leagues. 

But one thing is certain, the SEC isn't going to forget how they all handled the situation.  

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