There is no way to sugarcoat this. If you love college football Tuesday was both a historic and tough day.
A very tough day.
As expected, the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten conference voted to shut down all Fall sports, including football. The conference said it plans to play these sports in the Spring of 2021.
Not long after the Big Ten decision the Pac-12 announced that it, too, was going to postpone its football season to next Spring.
So by mid-day two of the Power Five conferences had elected not to play football this Fall and the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 were on the clock. They will ultimately decide if there is a college football season.
The ACC said on Tuesday that it still planned to move forward on its season, which is scheduled to start Sept. 10. It could actually delay the start of the season to gather more data.
Tuesday night various media outlets reported that the Big 12 had voted to continue its season.
But most eyes are on the SEC. For if the SEC shuts down, it’s over.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey Tweeted on Monday that the SEC was going to be very deliberate in its decision to play or not to play. It is not scheduled to play a game until Sept. 26 and it plans on using most of that time before making a final decision.
But by Tuesday the landscape of college football was significantly changed with the Big Ten, Pac-12, MAC, and Mountain West Conference, representing 50 of the 130 FBS teams, deciding not to play this Fall.
“I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today,” Sankey said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “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.”
Earlier on Tuesday, with the departure of the Big Ten all but official, Sankey appeared on the Dan Patrick Show to update where the SEC stood on the 2020 season.
“We have a start date. I’d be encouraged by that. We have a schedule, I’d be encouraged by that,” he told Patrick. “We’re still here today. On Sunday, if I read social media I would have thought it (was over).”
On Sunday night there was widespread speculation that if the Big Ten pulled the plug on Monday, the other four power conferences, including the SEC, would fall into line.
But only the Pac-12 joined the Big Ten on Tuesday.
“It’s roller coaster ride,” Sankey told Patrick Tuesday morning. “Today is probably better. We’ve made some decisions to avoid some of the time pressures that I sense others are feeling.”
He’s talking about the Big Ten, which was scheduled to open its season on Sept. 3, exactly 23 days ahead of the SEC.
Last Friday SEC fans were in a fun place as the conference released the two additional opponents each team will play in the 10-game conference-only schedule. The games were released live on the SEC Network and then hotly-debated on the final hour of the Paul Finebaum Show. Finally, there was something football-related to talk about.
But by Saturday the mood turned when the MAC announced that it was shutting down all Fall Sports including football. Then on Sunday it became clear that things had significantly changed in the Big Ten.
So now what?
Sankey was asked the key question: If the Big 12 and the ACC ultimately bail on the 2020 season, would the SEC be willing to go it alone?
The SEC would certainly have the television ratings clout to carry on alone.
But what about the optics of the SEC being the last conference standing?
Sankey is skeptical about that option.
“I don’t think that’s the right direction, really. Could we? Certainly we could, if that were the circumstance, operate on our own. I’m not sure that is the wisest decision.”