SEC Opts For Late September CFB Start, Adopts Conference-Only Slate
The SEC announced a 10-game conference-only football schedule, and for all the talk about conferences working collaboratively to solve their scheduling issues, it now appears that all members of the Power Five have acted independently. There could be different start dates for each of the Power Five conferences and different scheduling models. The SEC starts its season Sept. 26, the ACC starts Sept. 12, the Pac-12 reportedly starts Sept. 19. The Big Ten has not said yet. The SEC's rationale: Start the season as late as possible to account for any COVID-19 outbreaks once students return to campus (Michael Smith, SBJ College). SI.com's Ross Dellenger wrote "reasons are a plenty" for why the SEC decided to adopt a 10-game conference-only schedule. But there is "one overarching feeling: The SEC put the value of completing a conference season over the value of non-conference, rivalry games." Dellenger: "It's not a bad move. In fact, by the end of all of this, we may see every single conference in America do the same: intra-league play only." Meanwhile, the SEC's delayed start was the "most hotly debated item among officials," as several administrators "supported an earlier start." The Sept. 26 date is "later than all other conferences are expected to begin their seasons." SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey "suggested that the surge of students returning to campus next month was a big reason why" the conference delayed the start of its season (SI.com, 7/30).
STAYING IN-HOUSE: Univ. of Florida AD Scott Stricklin said that the SEC's discussion "centered on a conference-only season before the ACC made its announcement Wednesday." He also said that he and the other schools with ACC rivals "lobbied hard to keep one nonconference game on the schedule, but because the league agreed to play 10 games and push the start date to Sept. 26, there simply weren't enough Saturdays to keep a nonconference game on the schedule" (ESPN.com, 7/30). In Gainesvile, Robbie Andreu notes one of the "biggest and best rivalries in college football has become a casualty of the coronavirus," as the '20 college football season will not include a Florida-Florida State matchup for the first time since 1957 (GAINESVILLE SUN, 7/31). USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes the SEC schedule is going to be "10 games in 11 weeks of pure, unadulterated SEC-on-SEC brutality followed by a championship game that would leave the winner with just 12 days to physically recover and prepare for the playoff semifinals." Wolken: "This is a TV decision. This is a salvage as much cash as you can decision. This is a making chicken salad out of chicken bleep decision" (USA TODAY, 7/31).
MONEY MATTERS: In N.Y., Billy Witz writes even without fans, the schools "still stand to receive considerable payouts from their broadcast deals." The Big Ten has the "richest TV contract," paying its schools as much as $54M each last season (N.Y. TIMES, 7/31). In Birmingham, Joseph Goodman wrote the football fan in him "loves" the SEC's decision to go conference-only this season. But the "pandemic-weary realist in me knows it shouldn't be mistaken for anything other than found money during a house flood." Goodman: "No Florida vs. Florida State? No Clemson vs. South Carolina? Sad times for everyone." These "altered league schedules we're seeing around the country are nothing to celebrate." They are "necessary cash bailouts because college football pays the bills and keeps the lights on for non-revenue sports." If schools "weren't desperate for television money from ESPN and CBS, then league presidents would not be voting to play games" (AL.com, 7/30).
PLAYING TO YOUR BASE: In Atlanta, Mark Bradley writes for one day, the ACC "gave us plus-one," but 23 hours later, the SEC "handed us minus-one." If the decision to play or not this season had to be made by Friday, that decision "would have had to have been: We're not playing." The ACC "pushed the calendar back a week." The SEC "shoved the ACC's calendar in yonder trash can." This is "big-time college football, where playing to your constituency matters even more than it does in politics" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 7/31). ESPN Radio’s Mike Golic Jr.: “We had heard the ACC and the SEC had been in communication about things leading up to this and you wonder if it was the ACC choosing to make an announcement first that might have pushed this over the line” ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 7/31).
CHOICE TO MAKE: In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel notes Oklahoma State AD Mike Holder "suggested that patience is 'the buzzword' in this pandemic-stricken climate." That is "good advice for everything concerning life in coronavirus America." Tramel: "Until you're boxed out. Until most of the decisions are made for you." That is "where Big 12 football found itself Thursday" following the SEC's decision. College football is "staging its own quarantine," and there are "no strange bedfellows in this crazy 2020 season." That leaves the Big 12 "with a decision to make" (OKLAHOMAN, 7/31).