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Varying Opinions Between NCAA, Conference Leaders Points to Larger Problem at Hand

SEC planning for all potential options, including a start to football without other conferences on board

The 2020 college football season already has an uneasy feel to it, mainly because of all the unknowns that exist. What and when are the two main questions being asked about the season and there still don’t seem to be many concrete solutions.

Even a statement that two weeks ago seemed to have consistent approval, now is receiving varying opinions. For example, "college football can't return until campuses are reopened and students are in class" was a belief many conference commissioners held in this piece from SI a month ago.

In an interview with writer Andy Katz, president Mark Emmert said that every conference commissioner he's spoken to is on the same page. If students aren’t on campus, student athletes won’t be either.

"All of the commissioners and every president that I've talked to is in clear agreement: If you don't have students on campus, you don't have student-athletes on campus," Emmert said. "That doesn't mean [the school] has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you have to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. If a school doesn't reopen, then they're not going to be playing sports. It's really that simple."

So what does this prove? It proves that while the NCAA and the conferences are trying to work toward a common goal, there are still many varying opinions on fundamental issues.

Obviously with so much in the air, there's only one thing that's certain according to Emmert: College football will look "unusual" in 2020. Emmert did go on to reveal in the interview that the NCAA expects to have a plan in place as it pertains to a football season by July 4. 

One of the ideas floating around currently, which Emmert acknowledged in the interview, was the flexibility on transfer rules.

"If we've got to relax regulatory regimes (NCAA rules) then fine. It's going to be a very unusual school year," Emmert said. 

Another issue that's cropped up is how different universities and conferences will respond to parts of the country starting to open back up. States like Georgia, Alabama and Florida have already started the reopening process and there is fear among the NCAA that some conferences will have an unfair competitive advantage.

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With some of those southern states in particular starting to reopen, the SEC and other Power 5 conferences reportedly have spent the last few months concocting as many as 20 various plans to ensure a college football season happens in some capacity.

In an interview with 247Sports, commissioner Greg Sankey said nearly 20 ideas have been discussed and include a variety of scenarios in regards to seeing SEC football return.

"Ideas range from delayed seasons, games without fans or limited crowd sizes, conferences going it alone with their own schedules and more. The one guiding light: the Power 5 is aiming for an on-schedule start to the season. Still, they know that might not be possible," 247Sports reports.

The SEC seems to be intent on moving forward with a college football season, even if not all conferences will be in the same place when the fall comes. In an interview just 10 days ago with Jacksonville radio station 1010 XL, Sankey raised the question that if a few can't participate, should that automatically stop all conferences and schools from moving forward?

"If there's a couple of programs that aren't able, does that stop everyone? I'm not sure it does," Sankey said. "But the ability for us to stay connected will remain important.

"Hope is not a plan, but right now the desire would be to have 11 states and 14 [SEC] institutions moving forward in a collective manner and, like I said, connected nationally so that we can celebrate the return of college sports."

The immediate future, as it pertains to Louisiana and LSU, is keeping a close eye on the stay-at-home order, which is currently in effect through May 15. If Governor John Bel Edwards elects to start slowly reopening the state's economy, it would be another small step in the right direction.

Small steps appear to be the best we can ask for at this point.

“For us to have our football season our universities have to re-engage in a normal operating pattern,” Sankey said.