It remains to be seen if a college football season will begin truly on time or last the full length due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the SEC has adjusted their plans for the 2020 season and will move forward with a conference-only schedule.
The SEC announced on Thursday that the conference will move to a 10-game conference-only schedule for the 2020 college football season. The league-wide start to the season will be on September 26th, and the SEC Championship Game will be played on December 19th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. All schools will receive one mid-season open date and an open date on December 12th, the weekend before the title game.
“This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”
This decision came after extensive discussion among the SEC’s Presidents and Chancellors, Athletics Directors, Conference Office staff, and medical advisors, led by the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.
The SEC joins the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 as Power Five conferences to move to conference-only schedules for the 2020 college football season.
“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,” Sankey said. “It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”
A revised 10-game conference-only schedule will be announced at a later date following approval by the SEC’s athletics directors.
This move eliminates all of Tennessee’s non-conference match-ups for the 2020 season, most notably the Vols’ scheduled trip to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners. The Vols will now no longer take on Charlotte, Furman, or Troy as well.
Tennessee was slated to face their regular assortment of six SEC East foes and two cross-divisional opponents in the SEC prior to this change. Now, UT will add two additional SEC West opponents to their schedule.
The Vols will for sure play Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Arkansas, the eight teams already scheduled for their 2020 season. It remains to be seen how the other two teams will be chosen for all conference members, but the prevailing thought suggests that each team will add their non-locked cross-divisional opponent from the next two seasons onto this year’s schedule.
For Tennessee, Alabama is their locked-in cross-divisional foe every season. Every other SEC West team shows up on a rotation on UT’s schedule, and the Vols were set to take on Arkansas out of the West this season. Should the SEC decide to go with the aforementioned plan of adding the cross-divisional opponents from future schedules, Tennessee would be slated to add Ole Miss and LSU to their 2020 schedule to fill out the 10-game season.
This decision does not guarantee that a 2020 season will happen or proceed as planned, however. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could change plans at any time, as numbers continue to climb across the country and specifically throughout the southeast.
We will update as more news becomes available.