It would be mighty difficult to allow college students on campus, and then keep student-athletes isolated off campus from September to December.
I wanted to get that out of the way first, because a college football bubble was already unlikely to happen. Now it’s even more unlikely as fall camp is scheduled to start in a week on Friday, Aug. 17. But if there was a college football bubble, similar to the one the NBA has instituted since June and is still in as they complete what is left of their regular season, I have an idea of what it could like, specifically for the SEC and Tennessee.
Like the NBA, the games would be zoned for one region. In this case, we’ll go with Atlanta: the football capital of the South and a logical location. Most league campuses are within a 5-6 hour drive of the city. The only schools that aren’t are LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Missouri, all of which are at least seven hours away.
Atlanta is also the site of the 2020 SEC Championship Game. Outside of not housing the SEC’s league offices, which reside a few hours away in Birmingham, Atlanta is an SEC town, despite it being home to only one power five team that doesn’t reside in the conference.
All 14 teams could be housed at various hotels in the area, adhering to the same strict guidelines NBA players have had to follow to ensure social distancing and limited contact outside of games.
Again, telling players who are supposed to be students first and athletes second — amateur athletes at that — to stay in one place for at least three months with no visitors would be hard to justify. For the sake of the idea, however, the bubble has been a success for the NBA thus far. Especially when you consider the fact that the MLB opted not to go down a similar path and has already had to postpone games due to COVID-19 outbreaks since the season started late last month.
As for the games, ideally the locations would be limited to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the site of the SEC Championship Game since 2017. But playing multiple games on the same field in a single weekend would be hard to pull off. Like the Big Ten and Pac 12 schedules that were released in the past two weeks, SEC games would be played between Thursday-Saturday with Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosting three games throughout the weekend and various high school stadiums throughout the Atlanta metro area.
Other venues could include Kennesaw State’s Fifth Third Stadium or Georgia State’s Turner Field when those programs are not playing at home.
The bubble could also apply to other power five conferences as well. The Big Ten could isolate and play in Indianapolis or Chicago, the Big 12 in Dallas, the ACC in Charlotte and the Pac 12 in Los Angeles.
If a bubble were possible, it could go a long way in the 2020 college football season being played out in full, but it’s a little late to throw such a drastic plan together. With players from the Big Ten and Pac 12 threatening to boycott the season over health and safety concerns, as well as for the empowerment for student-athletes, league officials would have a hard time convincing those same players to uproot their lives even more so by staying isolated off campus.
For now, we’ll just have to sit and wait for the SEC to release their conference only schedule and hope for the best.