The powerhouse Southeastern Conference reconfigured its schedule Thursday to include only league games in 2020, a pandemic-forced decision that pushes major college football closer to a siloed regular season in which none of the power conferences cross paths.
The SEC’s university presidents agreed on a 10-game schedule that eliminates all nonconference opponents and is set to begin Sept. 26. The SEC championship game, originally scheduled for Dec. 5, will be pushed back to Dec. 19.
Each SEC team will have a midseason off week and Dec. 12 will be an off week for the entire conference. The delayed start for the Southeastern Conference is two weeks later than what the Atlantic Coast Conference set for itself Wednesday and creates 12 weeks to get in 10 games and determine participants for the SEC title game in Atlanta.
The regular season was originally scheduled to begin Labor Day weekend, but there was concern among SEC officials the return of students to campus in the coming weeks will spike COVID-19 cases. Conference officials believe delaying the start of the season improves the SEC’s chances to launch.
“We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur,” Commissioner Greg Sankey said.
A schedule with new matchups still must be approved by athletic directors and will be announced later, the SEC said. The 14 SEC teams normally play eight conference games and four nonconference games, with seven teams in each division. The SEC is expected to keep its divisional format, with each team adding two cross-divisional games.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced plans to play only conference games. The ACC this week announced a reworked 11-game schedule that left room for one non-conference game.
The ACC wanted to allow four of its schools to maintain in-state rivalry games with SEC schools, but now Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, Clemson-South Carolina and Kentucky-Louisville have been canceled. That puts all ACC nonconference games in doubt because the conference had stipulated it would only allow its schools to play in their home states against non-ACC teams.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have yet to reveal detailed schedules but both could come as soon as Friday. Big 12 officials were holding out hope their 10 members would be able to play nonconference games, but options are dwindling. The SEC’s decision cancels LSU’s home game against Texas and Tennessee’s scheduled trip to Oklahoma in September.
Big 12 athletic directors are expected to meet Monday and could have a decision on their schedule then.