Georgia football
football Edit

SEC goes conference only

The SEC will play a 10-game, conference-only football schedule in 2020, the league office announced Thursday afternoon.

Also, the SEC Championship has been moved from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19. The schedule will include one mid-season open date for each school, and an open date for all 14 schools on Dec 12 prior to the championship being played.

The revised schedule will be announced at a later date. All teams will kick off on Sept. 26. Georgia was scheduled to open the SEC portion of the schedule Sept. 19 at Alabama, but instead will begin on Sept. 26 against a still undetermined conference foe.

“This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities, to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus,” Sankey said. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”

This decision was taken following extensive discussions and thorough deliberation among the SEC’s Presidents and Chancellors, Athletics Directors, Conference Office staff, and medical advisors, led by the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.

"It was clear in our meeting today that this delay would be beneficial to our student-athletes and promote the safe and orderly return to campus for our student body in August," Georgia president Jere Morehead said. "Having some separation between the earlier reopening of our campuses and the later start of the football season should be helpful.”

According to the release, the decision to limit competition to conference-only opponents and rescheduling the SEC Championship Game is based on the need for maximum flexibility in making any necessary scheduling adjustments, while reacting to developments around the pandemic and continued advice from medical professionals.

"The 10-game SEC schedule provides us the best opportunity to play football as safely as possible in a Covid environment," Bulldog AD Greg McGarity said. "It’s disappointing the schedule model does not make it possible to play Georgia Tech; however, we look forward to renewing that rivalry in 2021."

Sankey agreed.

“We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur,” Sankey said. “It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”

Per the release, the rescheduled start to the season will allow the SEC to monitor developments in technology around mitigation and treatment of the virus, including:

... Trends in public health indicators throughout the SEC’s 11-state footprint, including positive cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and recovery statistics

... State, local and campus heath directives, including restrictions on gatherings, isolation requirements for travelers, and other health and travel restrictions

... Continued development of risk mitigation strategies

... Continued advancement in COVID-19 testing reliability and availability

... Continued evolution of time-based strategies for resuming activities after positive test results, including contact tracing, isolation and quarantine requirements

... Observation of successes and challenges presented by return to competition in other sports

"We look forward to communicating our plan for attendance at home games in Sanford Stadium at a later date. We are thankful for the patience our devoted season ticket holders have shown during this time," McGarity said. "We are committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for our fans that will respect and adhere to all Covid guidelines.”

A revised schedule for the 2020 SEC football season will be announced at a later date following approval by the Conference’s athletics directors.

The news assures that Georgia will not play its four non-conference games against Virginia, East Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe and instate rival Georgia Tech. The last time the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets did not play was in 1924.

The SEC becomes the third of the Power Five conferences to eliminate non-conference games as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, joining the Big Ten and Pac-12.

On Wednesday, the ACC announced it would play 10 league games as well as one non-conference game.

Kirby Smart now knows he'll have 10 SEC games to navigate this fall.
Kirby Smart now knows he'll have 10 SEC games to navigate this fall. (USA Today)