SEC commissioner Greg Sankey expresses concern over having a college football season this year

Sankey said 'We are running out of time' to deal with pandemic as football season nears
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. (Source: Christina Chambers/WBRC)
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. (Source: Christina Chambers/WBRC)(WTOK)
Published: Jul. 11, 2020 at 3:17 PM EDT
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The day after the Pac-12 followed the Big Ten's lead in deciding to play only conference games this fall in football and other sports, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said that the concern for having a football season is "high to very high."

"The direct reality is not good," Sankey wrote on Twitter after appearing on the ESPN Radio's "Marty & McGee" on Saturday. "I want to provide the opportunity for college athletics to be part of the fall, but we need to all consider our behavior to make possible what right now appears very difficult."

Sankey reiterated that the SEC plans to determine later this month how to approach the football season. That decision will come as the states within the league's footprint deal with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

"The direct reality is not good, and the notion that we've politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings," Sankey said. "You can't mitigate and eliminate every risk, but how do you minimize the risk?

"We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be."

Several college football programs across the country have opted to halt voluntary workouts amid outbreaks of the coronavirus. But schools are not required to publicly disclose how many of their athletes have tested positive, so it remains unclear how many of the SEC's 14 programs may be dealing with cases.

But even without decisive action from Sankey, the league's football season is already guaranteed to look at least a little bit different. The Pac-12's decision to play only conference games wiped out Alabama's game vs. USC that was scheduled for Sept. 5 in Arlington, Texas, and Texas A&M's game against Colorado scheduled for Sept. 19. So far, they are the only SEC games that have been eliminated from the schedule since there were no scheduled meetings between Big Ten teams and SEC teams this season. But if the ACC moves to conference-only games, it would wipe out six games for the SEC.

“That literally is playing out in front of us every day,” Sankey said. “That’s why I don’t feel any pressure because of somebody else’s decisions. We’re trying to make the right decisions for us, for the Southeastern Conference. It does have an impact because 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.”