After a public outcry from influential voices that included high-ranking athletic officials and President Donald Trump, the fate of Southeastern Conference football is pushed back to another date.
The league’s presidents met Monday night and decided to continue monitoring the situation around the coronavirus, a source told the lawyer.
The dominoes seemed to be in line with a massive collapse, a series of cancellations among college football’s five major conferences due to concerns about playing during the national pandemic.
Two of the sport̵
The conversation for larger conferences is expected to continue. Several reports say the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 still intend to play, and the SEC, at least for now, will also continue as planned.
Sources: SEC presidents are expected to discuss plans for fall athletics during an impromptu meeting
Sunday’s speculation that the Big Ten would end their season was spilled on Monday morning, when the Detroit Free Press reported that the league’s presidents voted 12-2 to end the season. A president of the Big Ten later said that no official vote had taken place.
Sportscaster Dan Patrick first reported the Big Ten’s plans to suspend, adding Monday morning that Pac-12 was expected to follow. The two leagues had been in crucial discussions since last week, when large groups of players were united under a list of demands for protection against COVID-19 and racial justice. The Pac-12 coalition threatened to boycott games.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost expressed opposition to a cancellation and told reporters on Monday “our university is committed to playing no matter what” and if the big ten do not play, “I think we are prepared to look for other alternatives.”
Last Wednesday, Connecticut, which competes independently, became the first Football Bowl maintenance program to interrupt the fall season. Old Dominion, a conference member in the United States, also suspended Monday.
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The dizzying weekend was enough to stimulate immediate action within the SEC.
The league’s 14 sporting directors were already scheduled to meet on Monday, but the conference’s school presidents demanded an impromptu meeting later in the afternoon, several sources confirmed with The Advocate. The meeting gave the presidents the opportunity to vote to suspend the football season if the proposal was presented.
But the league did not make a firm decision. Conference leaders chose to remain patient, and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement that “the recent flood of reports on college athletics does not change that strategy.”
“I think our student athletes want to play,” Woodward said. “We owe it to them to do everything possible to do it safely.”
Before the meeting, Trump, various US senators, plus the SEC’s athletic directors, coaches and players spoke in public in favor of playing a football season – a collaborative effort that seems to have guided the league’s actions.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey posted a statement on Twitter saying the best advice he has received since the pandemic began in March is to “be patient” and “take time when decisions are made.”
“We know there are still concerns,” Sankey wrote. “We’ve never had a FB season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I do not know. We have not stopped trying.”
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Arkadan’s athletic director Hunter Yurachek told ESPN’s Paul Finebaum that the athletic directors felt confident to move on with their 10-game, league-only season and health record announced by the SEC last week.
“We will not panic because another Power Five conference may make a different decision,” Yurachek said.
Several SEC players began tweeting support for a season using the slogan “We want to play” – a phrase star LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase also published on Sunday night. Biletnikoff Award winner’s father, Jimmy, said last week that Chase is “locked in” for the 2020 season.
Coaches like Florida’s Dan Mullen and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin also used the phrase.
The SEC announced in mid-July that its players could opt out of the season if they had health problems and did not lose their scholarships.
Alabama driving back Najee Harris told ESPN on Monday that he would be willing to sign an exemption and agree not to sue the university if he contracted coronavirus.
Harris was in a Zoom conversation on Sunday with nearly 30 players from five major college football conferences, and he told ESPN that the overall consensus was that players wanted to play as long as the conferences followed the same test protocol.
Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN that “players are much safer with us than they are at home.” This is a point that several league leaders made when players were cleared to return to campus for summer training June 8: players do not have access to the expensive medical nursing colleges that provide at home.
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But it is not certain that college athletes would be sent home if the football season is really interrupted. LSU has adopted a hybrid return to campus plan that uses both online and personal instructions. Players would probably stay on campus, go to school and train as if it were the season.
Playing football and the decision to keep students on campus are linked. Shortly after the Ivy League decided in July to hold online instruction during the autumn semester, the league decided to postpone its autumn sport until the spring.
A common argument emerged: If students are already on campus, why not play football? Vice President Mike Pence urged LSU leaders to continue with online instruction at a round table at Tiger Stadium in July, saying he was “very confident” that the university can “develop plans to safely reopen the campus and restart sports programs.”
Trump repeated that sentiment twice on Monday.
“Student athletes have worked too hard to interrupt their season,” Trump tweeted. Within an hour, Trump tweeted more sincerely, “Play college football!”
Play College Football!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2020
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LSU and the other SEC schools are scheduled to be a season camp on August 17 in preparation for the league’s planned regular season beginning September 26.
The SEC released its coronavirus protocols on Friday. The league will coordinate testing with a third-party provider at least twice a week during the season, and schools are encouraged to find a way to test a third time.
“Our health experts have guided us through every step of the preparations for a safe return to activity,” Sankey said in a statement on Friday, “and together with the medical staff embedded in our athletics programs, we will continue to monitor the development of the virus and develop our plan to meet the health needs of our student-athletes. “
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