Sunday evening the sky was falling on college football. Almost 36 hours later SEC commissioner Greg Sankey spoke publicly on the Dan Patrick Show about the tumultuous weekend of reports from the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences. Whatever decision those conferences make will be considered, but ultimately will not determine how the SEC acts.
“We’ve obviously had conversations among colleagues, so you have a sense of what may happen. It is information for us. That’s what it is. I’ve said to you in my monthly appearances, everyday we learn a little bit more and it is not simply going to be a guiding moment if another conference makes this decision, but a piece of information along this really, really interesting journey.”
Sankey added, “We had some really healthy dialogue with athletics directors and with our presidents and chancellors, really information because we’ve made decision to avoid some of the time pressures I sense others are feeling… We’re going to keep working day to day to see if we can provide opportunities for student-athletes to compete.”
Even though the decisions of others will not force the SEC’s hand, Sankey admitted it’s unlikely that the league would still play football if it was the last conference standing. As for speculation that other schools — like Nebraska and Ohio State — could potentially team up with the SEC to play if their conferences cancel the season, Sankey used the world unrealistic as he pointed to impassable legal hurdles.
Since Saturday the Big Ten and Pac-12 have used the media to make their case for canceling the season, most recently pointing to a small number of cases of a heart condition known as myocarditis among athletes who previously contracted COVID-19. He was not asked specifically about the latest cardiovascular concerns, but Sankey did talk at length about how the SEC is weighing health risks for players.
“Whatever we do, we’re going to do it safely. We’re going to do in the most healthy way possible,” said Sankey.
“Our medical advisory group has said, ‘yes. We can continue to go forward.’ Were that advice to change, certainly there would be a stopping point but the indicators are we can right now do what we’re doing in a healthy way and we’re going to continue that central issue — health — as we move forward, we hope, towards competition with no assurances that actually will take place.”
As for what exactly that competition will look like this fall, he did not provide a timetable on when a complete SEC football schedule will be released. As league officials work through the scheduling kinks, the only guarantee is a league-wide bye week at the season’s conclusion in December to allow for make-up games.
Before his time with Dan Patrick ended, Sankey was asked if he could provide any assurance to panicking SEC football fans. There are no guarantees, but there are positive signs that the sport will be played this fall.
“If you wanna walk back off the ledge, first think about your own personal responsibility, and then second, the responsibility of all those football fans around you…. I’d keep in mind that we haven’t made final, final decisions. There’s still some time but we have set a start date. I’d be encouraged by that if I were a college football fan. We announced opponents. I’d be encouraged by that. We announced medical care guidelines; that’s encouraging. We’re still here today and on Sunday it was all over if I read social media correctly. But we’re still here and we’re going to keep working and see if we can move it along because what’s been told to me by young men on our team is they want an opportunity — they want a safe and healthy opportunity — but they want an opportunity to compete and if we can do that, we will.”