Following the lead of other Power 5 Conferences, the SEC presidents and chancellors on Thursday approved a 10-game, conference-only football schedule for the fall that begins Sept. 26. The full schedule will be announced at a later date.
The revised schedule increases by two the SEC’s usual conference slate of eight league games, which includes six divisional foes, one permanent cross-divisional foe and one rotating cross-divisional foe.
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin confirmed the SEC will keep its division format and the eight teams that are currently scheduled, and that the league is still determining the two additional teams. Sources told ESPN that one proposal heavily discussed is to add each school’s cross-divisional rotating opponents for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
For instance, Alabama would add Florida and Vanderbilt, and Georgia would add Arkansas and Mississippi State. Any plan must be approved by athletic directors.
The SEC title game is scheduled for Dec. 19, two weeks later than planned, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The schedule includes one open date for each school in the middle of the season, as well as an open date on Dec. 12 for all teams.
The SEC made the changes to allow for “maximum flexibility in making any necessary scheduling adjustments while reacting to the developments around the pandemic and continued advice from medical experts,” the conference’s announcement said.
“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,” 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.”
The SEC became the fourth Power 5 conference this month to alter its schedule in order to provide more flexibility during the pandemic, joining the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC. The Big Ten and Pac-12 previously said they would also play a conference-only schedule. The Pac-12 is expected to announce the details of its plan on Friday.
The ACC announced Wednesday it would use an 11-game schedule, which includes FBS independent Notre Dame, playing a full league schedule made up of 10 conference games and one nonconference game – a model that was impacted by the SEC’s decision, which cancels the traditional regular-season rivalry games between the ACC and SEC: Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, Kentucky-Louisville and South Carolina-Clemson.
Sankey said it’s “regrettable” that those traditional rivalries won’t happen in 2020, “but these are unique, and hopefully temporary circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”
The SEC’s decision also resulted in the cancellation of several other marquee nonconference matchups that had been scheduled for the fall, including LSU-Texas and Tennessee-Oklahoma.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a statement the conference-only option is “the best option” to keep the players and staff safe while preserving “the integrity of the season.”
“The safety of our team will be our highest priority throughout the season, but we are also excited that our players will have the opportunity to compete and play this season,” Saban said. “I want to thank the leadership from our administration, our medical staff, the SEC and all of the medical experts that are guiding us through this process.”
The Big 12 is the lone Power 5 conference that hasn’t determined its schedule for the fall, but its presidents will meet on Monday and will consider four or five models, according to commissioner Bob Bowlsby.