SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey warns public that college football season might be in jeopardy

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SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey warns public that college football season might be in jeopardy

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey during the opening session of SEC Media Days 2019 - July 15, 2019.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey during the opening session of SEC Media Days 2019 – July 15, 2019,

Recently, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey acknowledged on the Marty and McGee radio show that “college football is running out of time to correct and get things right” with the season fast approaching.

Since June 8, Georgia football players have been participating in voluntary workouts. But this upcoming Wednesday, players will be allowed to start workouts under the direction of Kirby Smart and his staff for the first time in months. In fact, most teams’ coaches will be allowed to oversee workouts beginning on Monday.

Per the NCAA, UGA would need a waiver to begin its workouts on Monday on account of their Sept. 7 matchup against Virginia in Atlanta, although most teams start on Saturday, Sept. 5.

Without fans being able to attend the game – which seems very possible as this point – it wouldn’t make sense for Mercedes-Benz Stadium to host the Bulldogs’ season opener against the Cavaliers.

For now, Sankey is holding his ground, even as COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing in the wrong direction in the South.

“What I’ve tried to do is both keep a focus on what’s ahead but provide reality, which has been I’m going to focus on preparing to play the season as scheduled but acknowledge the circumstances around coronavirus are going to guide us in that decision-making,” Sankey said. “And the reality right now is the trends in our region, in our nation, are not in the positive direction for being able to have normal experiences.”

The Big Ten’s decision completely blindsided the country on Thursday when it announced it would be playing a 10-game regular season with a conference schedule only. The Pac-12 followed suit on Friday by confirming that it would only be playing a conference schedule as well.

Photos from the opening session of SEC Media Days 2019 - July 15, 2019.
Photos from the opening session of SEC Media Days 2019 – July 15, 2019.

Sankey admitted that he does not feel pressured into making any rash decisions, and he’s sticking to his original timeline for making a decision in late July on the SEC’s upcoming season. The Big 12 and ACC have made it known that they will also wait until the end of July.

“I don’t feel any pressure because of somebody else’s decisions,” Sankey said. “I’ve said publicly we’re all linked nationally, so when other people make decisions, yup, there’s an impact, but also we’re going to look at our situation and make a decision that’s appropriate for the Southeastern Conference and most importantly for the health of our student-athletes.”

Smart said in a recent interview with David Pollack and Kevin Negandhi on ESPN’s College Football Podcast that he is educating his players and protecting them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the number one thing we’ve got to do is continue to educate ourselves and grow,” Smart said. “We’ve been told one thing, then another, then this has been said, that’s been said, tests are still being developed, (and) we know the inaccuracies involved in the testing protocol. There’s a lot of things that have to happen before the season comes about, but they’re also making progress really fast, we’re finding out more.”

Updates from Monday’s meeting

SEC athletic directors met with Sankey on Monday in Birmingham for their regularly-scheduled meeting. UGA athletic director Greg McGarity confirmed to UGASports.com that no decision was made in regards to the 2020 college football season. In fact, they will wait until the end of the to make a decision.

Sankey later confirmed (what he originally said last week) the conference’s stance in a press release.

“We had a productive meeting on Monday and engaged in discussions on a number of important issues that will contribute to critical decisions to be made in the weeks ahead,” said Sankey. “The ability to personally interact over the course of an entire day contributed to the productivity of the meeting.”

All 14 athletic directors and Sankey met at the SEC’s Kramer-Moore Conference Room, which allowed for them social distance themselves from one another. There were several other groups that participated via a video conference call, including members of the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force headed by Georgia’s Ron Courson. The group discussed issues that were relevant to the current pre-season calendar and also talked about an update on current COVID-19 testing policies.

This marked the first in-person meeting by all SEC athletic directors since before the league’s men’s basketball tournament in Nashville. The group has met several during times vid video since the start of the pandemic.

“It is clear that current circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve and we will continue to closely monitor developments around the virus on a daily basis,” Sankey said. “In the coming weeks we will continue to meet regularly with campus leaders via videoconferences and gather relevant information while guided by medical advisors. We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us.”

The possibility of scheduling options for holding athletic competition in the fall of 2020 were discussed. Also, among other topics discussed were game management and the best case practices for ensuing a healthy environment at athletic events for the conference’s student-athletes, coaches, officials, staff and fans.

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.