The Big Ten’s decision to move to a conference-only schedule has set in motion a wave of scheduling changes in college football.
The Southeastern Conference might prove to be the final holdout as it attempts to wait as long as possible before making a decision on potentially changing its schedule, 247Sports has learned. The conference is in no hurry to follow the lead of the Big Ten, which surprised Power 5 conference commissioners with its announcement Thursday afternoon, but times are changing — and scheduling tweaks appear to be inevitable.
The SEC is not scheduled to discuss a plan to potentially move to conference-only games until next week, a person familiar with discussions in the conference office tells 247Sports. That timeline may be accelerated after the Big Ten’s surprise announcement Thursday, but the plan is for athletics directors to discuss the logistics of a conference-only schedule next week.
Discussions will include an eight- to 10-game schedule in the SEC, though no final decision was expected to be reached at the meeting. The Big Ten’s decision, however, may change that. Publicly, the SEC remains steady with its plan to wait until late July or early August to make any decisions on the upcoming football season, which is threatened by the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
The SEC’s head coaches conducted a meeting with conference administrators, including commissioner Greg Sankey, on Thursday morning and were told at the time the conference will wait as long as possible before making any decisions on the football season, including whether to start on time or move to a conference-only schedule, a person involved in the call told 247Sports.
Coaches and administrators were caught off-guard by the Big Ten’s announcement Thursday. The Big Ten, however, had entered serious discussions concerning a move to a conference-only schedule and word leaked to other Power 5 commissioners earlier this week, an industry source tells 247Sports.
“The Southeastern Conference will continue to meet regularly with our campus leaders in the coming weeks, guided by medical advisors, to make the important decisions necessary to determine the best path forward related to the SEC fall sports,” Sankey said in a statement released Thursday evening. “We recognize the challenges ahead and know the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans must remain at the forefront of those decisions.”
A conference-only schedule has been discussed in the ACC and the plan has been shared with its head coaches, according to Brett McMurphy of Stadium. The Pac-12 denied reports a move to a conference-only schedule is inevitable on the West Coast.
“The Pac-12 has not yet made a determination on fall sports,” the Pac-12 said in a statement to 247Sports. “The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports is our number one priority, and we have been working closely with our Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Board and campus leadership over the past months to help guide our decision making.”
News of the Big Ten’s move to a conference-only schedule comes on the heels of Power 5 administrators admitting an on-time start to the season is appearing less likely as positive cases of COVID-19 spread across the country.