Today, SEC presidents voted to adopt a conference-only schedule for the 2020 season, which eliminates in-state rivalries like the Governor’s Cup. According to a new report, only one president voted against it, and it wasn’t Eli Capilouto.
South Carolina Board of Trustees member Chuck Allen told The Athletic’s Josh Kendall that USC president Bob Caslen was the sole dissenting vote today. His reasoning? He wanted to preserve the school’s rivalry with Clemson, which would have been possible had the SEC adopted a 10+1 (ten conference games, one non-conference game) format like the ACC.
Caslen in a statement from the school: "I am pleased that football will return in the fall and that we will play our SEC competitors. Throughout discussions …, I took the position that we should continue to play our in-state rival, but I support the ultimate decision."
— Josh Kendall (@JoshTheAthletic) July 30, 2020
Capilouto, who is also serving president of the SEC, has yet to release a statement on today’s decision. Both athletics director Mitch Barnhart and head coach Mark Stoops said that although they support the SEC moving to a conference-only schedule, they are disappointed that it came at the expense of the Governor’s Cup.
“I fully support the SEC’s decision to move to conference-only games, though we are disappointed we won’t have the chance to compete with Louisville for the Governor’s Cup this season,” Barnhart said. “That series means a great deal to the Commonwealth and we look forward to working with Louisville to continue the series in seasons to come.”
“I’m glad there is a plan in place so we can move forward with preparations for the season,” Stoops said. “I understand and support the decision to begin on September 26. Everyone would like to play a full schedule, including our rivalry game with Louisville, but this timing and format gives us our best opportunity to adjust to these unique circumstances.”
Now, before a Louisville troll accuses Capilouto of running scared, it’s worth mentioning that there are several other factors in play. The new schedule and delayed start allows the league to monitor how the NFL and other college football conferences are impacted by the coronavirus and makes it easier to reschedule games that need to be postponed. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey further explained the decision not to go with a 10+1 model on “The Paul Finebaum Show.”
“It is a recognition that we are in a very different environment and the importance of a Southeastern Conference Championship is primary for us and for my thinking,” Sankey said. “A lot of discussion about whether that was the right direction. Ultimately, we announced that decision. We have great respect for the rivalries that exists across the conference, but we don’t know what the fall is going to look like and having the ability to manage our own schedule, we believe, gives us the best opportunity to play for that championship, to have our division winners, which is our tradition, and then to have a conference championship game. A few weeks later than originally planned.”
On a more cynical note, it also saves SEC schools a lot of money when it comes to games against teams outside the Power Five. Legal action aside, Kentucky may save $2.5 million by not playing Kent State, Eastern Illinois and Eastern Michigan this year. No one in the SEC will come out and say that had an impact on the decision, but money talks, especially in these trying times. Striking all non-conference games instead of working around a select few may have been a sacrifice Capilouto had to make.
…But, it still sucks that in a time we’re being told to restrict out-of-state travel to limit the spread of the virus, we can’t even drive 75 miles down the road to play our rival. 2020 needs to stop 2020ing.