The SEC logo is displayed on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Friday, December 6, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

SEC commissioner: ‘Decisions down the road’ on complete football season

How optimistic are you that there will be a full football season in the fall? That was one of many questions, most of them not definitively answerable, that SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey addressed during a 45-minute conference call with media members Wednesday.

He held the call on the day after the SEC canceled all of its spring sports events, including spring football games, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are in one of those circumstances in life where there may be more ‘I don’t knows’ than ‘I know how something will play out,’” Sankey said.

That reality applies to football season more than five months away.

“Our focus is on preparing for the ’20-21 academic year,” Sankey said. “We’ll obviously think about everything going forward because we’re being guided by public health information and decision-making. But my hope is we can return to our normal organized activities, our normal experiences, and be part of that celebration around soccer, volleyball, cross-country and football in the fall.

“But we’ll have to see,” he added.

As for how optimistic he is about having a complete football season, Sankey said: “I’m a half-full perspective person, so I have optimism. We have taken measures, as have our colleague conferences, at this time. I think if I read health leaders, they say we’re going to have a period of time to see what happens with the growth of these (COVID-19) cases, and we’ll make decisions down the road.

“… I think all of us will have responsibility to contingency plan appropriately without making predictions.”

In the more immediate future, Sankey expressed doubt whether spring football practice is salvageable, even on a delayed basis.

“I’m not going to be overly optimistic about the return to practice,” he said. “We haven’t foreclosed that opportunity, but I think practically that window is pretty narrow.”

However, he also said, “If we’re not able to practice further this spring, I’m confident we’ll be seeking opportunities to make sure our teams are adequately prepared heading into the season. Elements of that are going to be guided by the public health realities in front of us.”

For now, Sankey said planning continues for SEC Football Media Days, scheduled to be held July 13-16 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

“We’re full steam ahead on our Atlanta planning for Media Days,” Sankey said. “(But) last Thursday morning, I was full steam ahead on playing a basketball tournament and was disrupted.

“So we’re going to prepare for disruption, but we’re going to plan as if in July we’ll have the Media Days opportunity as scheduled. That’s the best answer I can give you at this moment.”

Among other topics Sankey addressed:

• He is “open” to the NCAA giving athletes in spring sports an additional year of eligibility to offset the one they lost this year. He called it “an extremely important issue to work through in relatively short order so that people around our programs have clarity about what’s next for their future.” 
• He said SEC staff is working through the financial impact of the cancellation of basketball tournaments and other events. “I’m not going to make predictions, other than we’ve seen alterations in the NCAA tournament that no doubt will have a financial impact,” he said. “I’m certain (the SEC) will move forward financially in a positive way, but we’ll have to figure out all the adjustments and impacts in the days and weeks ahead.”

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