The SEC will play a 10-game, conference only schedule in 2020.
After league Athletic Directors met Wednesday the Presidents and Chancellors of the schools met Thursday and voted to make the decision final. The league plans to kick off the season on Saturday, September 26 and the SEC title game will be held on December 19th. The schedule will include one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on December 12 for all schools.
The SEC is now the third Power 5 conference, joining the Big Ten and Pac-12, to move o a conference-only schedule. Wednesday the ACC announced a “plus-1” model schedule, where the league would play a conference-only schedule but add the possibility to play one non-conference opponent, with restrictions on who and where the games would be played.
Based on information given to the league by it’s health advisory board, there is a concern that COVID-19 cases could spike when the general student population returns to campuses across the country. Delaying the season from an original late August kickoff to late September will allow the conference time to adjust and react if that becomes a reality. The goal has always been to somehow safely preserve college football, as it supports every other sport on campus and is the moneymaker for most athletic departments around the country.
“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,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a release. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.
After careful consideration of the public health indicators in our region and following advice of our medical advisors, we have determined that this is the best course of action to prepare for a safe and healthy return to competition for SEC student-athletes, coaches and others associated with our sports programs.”
Most notably for the Gators, this means there will not be a season-ending game with the Florida State Seminoles. The two schools have played annually since 1958 with Florida holding a 36-26-2 record over the Noles.
Both Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and Florida State Athletic Director expressed their desire to play the matchup with Stricklin publically saying how important the game is to both schools.
“If we’re able to get to the point where we play a game, when we get to that point I want to play that FSU game,” Stricklin said on July 14th. “That’s really important to the state of Florida. I think it’s really important to both institutions. I’m hopeful we can find a way to play our schedule as normally as possible at that point, but that again is secondary to making sure we take the extra steps to enhance the safety for our athletes.”
Ultimately that wasn’t in the cards with the SEC’s decision. The decision to play a conference only schedule will eliminate a large number of marquee games from the schedule.
Mississippi State – N.C. State
The Gators schedule obviously is now vastly different. Florida’s original schedule was:
Sept. 5 vs. Eastern Washington
Sept. 12 vs. Kentucky
Sept. 19 vs. South Alabama
Sept. 26 at Tennessee
Oct. 3 vs. South Carolina
Oct. 10 vs. LSU
Oct. 17 at Ole Miss
Nov. 7 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 14 vs. Missouri
Nov. 21 vs. New Mexico State
Nov. 28 at Florida State
The SEC has not announced a new schedule but will do so in the coming weeks. Stricklin released this statement following the SEC’s decision.
“The safety of our student-athletes, staff, and fans will remain the top priority as we navigate the return to collegiate athletic competition,” Stricklin said in the statement. “We will continue to lean on the advice of the SEC Medical Task Force, UF Health, CDC, Campus and state health officials as we develop safety protocols and stadium capacity guidelines.”