Friday is finally here, capping one of the most eventful weeks in college football’s recent history.
To recap, the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they were postponing all fall sports due to the coronavirus pandemic with hopes of playing in the spring. A host of other conferences have done so as well, but the Big 12, ACC and SEC have all voiced their intent to keep going and try to play football in a few weeks.
Preseason camps are set to start in the SEC this coming Monday. Here is the latest news on how the conference and college football are approaching that start.
SEC coaches reportedly heated over schedule
According to ESPN’s Chris Low and Alex Scarborough, things got testy on a conference call with SEC head coaches on Thursday. The issue? The two games added to every team’s schedule last Friday.
Low and Scarborough, citing sources on the call, said Friday that coaches were frustrated that the conference did not explain how it chose the two new opponents for each program, with multiple coaches saying the process appeared “corrupt.”
Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported the contentious nature of the conversation as well, saying coaches were not given any “formula” by which the opponents were chosen.
The two additional games were needed after the SEC voted to move to a 10-game, conference-only schedule this fall, hoping that uniform testing protocols and reduced travel will combat COVID-19.
Ray Tanner talks attendance
Appearing on College Sports on SiriusXM Radio on Friday, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said his department has submitted a request to the state government to allow fans at Williams-Brice Stadium this season.
Specifically, Tanner said USC calculated Williams-Brice could be at 24.6% capacity and support social distancing measures. With a total capacity of 80,250, that would put the number of people in the stands at 19,741 or so. That number, Tanner added, includes the band, players’ guests and other personnel.
Who will get in after that has yet to be announced, but Tanner said South Carolina will go through a system with its fanbase and donors with ticket packages.
NCAA says no fall championships
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Thursday that there will be no fall championship tournaments, as a majority of conferences and programs have now postponed their fall seasons.
“The board of governors also established if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship,” Emmert said in a video posted to the NCAA’s Twitter. “We can’t in any Division I NCAA championship sport now — which is everything other than FBS football that goes on in the fall. Sadly, tragically, that’s going to be the case this fall, full stop.”
As Emmert said, FBS football doesn’t organize a national championship through the NCAA, so the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and other conferences can still work toward a fall season. However, women’s volleyball, women’s and men’s soccer, cross country, field hockey and men’s water polo all won’t have national championships to play for. Emmert said sports could try to reschedule for the winter or spring.
Shortly after Emmert’s video, the SEC released a statement from commissioner Greg Sankey saying the conference was reviewing the impact of the NCAA’s move. League teams could theoretically play a regular season this fall and compete for a conference title with no NCAA postseason.
The NCAA Division I Council previously recommended that any student-athletes who can’t participate this season because of the pandemic receive an additional season of competition and an extension of their five-year eligibility window.
Alabama AD talks
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne, one of the most important voices in the SEC, spoke with reporters on Thursday on a broad range of topics. Among them, Byrne said there has been discussion on the conference level about how many positive tests one team would have to report before games have to be canceled or postponed.
“There have been discussions about that,” Byrne said, according to AL.com. “There is not a firm policy in place. I think that’s something that, from a myocarditis standpoint, no. From everything else, I cannot — I’m not trying to be misleading at all — I just can’t give you a good answer on that one right now but those are discussions we’ve had.”
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp has previously said he suggested a threshold of 30 players being unavailable, either due to positive tests or quarantines due to exposure.
The issue of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that has been linked to COVID-19, has become a major factor in conferences’ decisions to play this fall or postpone to the spring. Byrne said Alabama has had no reported cases of myocarditis to date.
Spurrier, Holtz in favor of playing
A pair of former South Carolina Gamecock head coaches have come out strongly in favor of teams trying to play this fall. Lou Holtz, who has previously expressed that opinion, went on Fox News on Tuesday to advocate for that course of action, comparing the risk of playing to the World War II invasion of Europe on D-Day.
And on the Paul Finebaum Show on Wednesday, SEC legend Steve Spurrier also endorsed a return this fall, saying the health and safety protocols in place were strong enough.
“I believe (players) all have a right and deserve to go play the game. They want to play; they want to compete against the other guys. Most people nowadays live, let’s say, 80 years and these young men have four years to play college football,” Spurrier said, per Saturday Down South. “You’d hate to miss one here and there if you don’t have to. I hope something can be worked out that the Big Ten could come back. Because only three conferences playing would be a little unusual.”
Greg Sankey preaches patience
Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced Tuesday they would be postponing their football seasons with hopes of playing in the spring. In response, the SEC and ACC released statements from their commissioners that conveyed similar messages: We’re not giving up just yet.
“I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes. We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day.”