Southeastern Conference officials are meeting Monday in Birmingham and the outlook for fall sports is not optimistic.
Commissioner Greg Sankey said his level of concern for the upcoming football season is “high to very high.”
Sankey’s comments came one 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.
“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.”
With coronavirus cases rising across the South, Sankey reiterated his stance that the SEC will determine later this month its approach to the football season.
“We put a medical advisory group together in early April with the question, ‘What do we have to do to get back to activity?’ and they’ve been a big part of the conversation,” Sankey said. “But 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. There’s some very clear advice about — 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.”
Sankey said the decisions of the Big Ten and Pac-12 are not forcing his hand to make a decision before he’s ready.
“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.”
The Big 12 and ACC have also announced they will wait until later in July before making any decisions about the fall season or possible scheduling arrangements.
“What I’ve tried to do is both keep a focus on what’s ahead but provide reality, which has been I’m going to focus on preparing to play the season as scheduled but acknowledge the circumstances around coronavirus are going to guide us in that decision-making,” Sankey said. “And the reality right now is the trends in our region, in our nation, are not in the positive direction for being able to have normal experiences.”
–Field Level Media