The Southeastern Conference will kick off its 2020 football season on September 26 as it monitors the spread of COVID-19, three weeks later than the original planned start on Labor Day weekend.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced plans Thursday for a 10-game conference-only schedule this fall. He said the delayed start will allow SEC schools to focus on the healthy return of students and staff, factoring in a gradual return to athletics.
“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,” Sankey said in a statement.
The commissioner said the schedule supports safety measures being implemented at SEC schools amid the coronavirus pandemic. The SEC will limit competition to conference-only opponents. The move could save the SEC millions of dollars by eliminating “buy games.”
“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.”
The SEC football championship is slated for December 19 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Officials said the schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season, allowing opportunities to adapt given the fluid nature of the virus.