The powerhouse Southeastern Conference reconfigured its schedule Thursday to include only league games in 2020, a pandemic-forced decision that pushes major college football closer to a siloed regular season in which none of the power conferences cross paths.
The SEC’s university presidents agreed on a 10-game schedule that eliminates all nonconference opponents and is set to begin Sept. 26. The SEC championship game, originally scheduled for Dec. 5, will be pushed back to Dec. 19.
Each SEC team will have a midseason off week and Dec. 12 will be an off week for the entire conference. The delayed start for the Southeastern Conference is two weeks later than what the Atlantic Coast Conference set for itself Wednesday and creates 12 weeks to get in 10 games and determine participants for the SEC title game in Atlanta.
The regular season was originally scheduled to begin Labor Day weekend, but there was concern among SEC officials the return of students to campus in the coming weeks will spike COVID-19 cases. Conference officials believe delaying the start of the season improves the SEC’s chances to launch.
“We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur,” commissioner Greg Sankey said.
A schedule with new matchups still must be approved by athletic directors and will be announced later, the SEC said. The 14 SEC teams normally play eight conference games and four nonconference games, with seven teams in each division. The SEC is expected to keep its divisional format, with each team adding two cross-divisional games.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced plans to play only conference games. The ACC this week announced a reworked 11-game schedule that left room for one nonconference game.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have yet to reveal detailed schedules but both could come as soon as Friday. Big 12 athletic directors are expected to meet Monday and could have a decision on their schedule then.
Bills send rookies home after positive tests
The Buffalo Bills became the NFL’s first team to send their rookies home and hold training camp remotely after two more players tested positive for COVID-19.
Defensive backs Siran Neal and Dane Jackson both tested positive Thursday, upping the team’s total to five since rookies reported on July 21. Neal is a second-year player and Jackson is a rookie seventh-round draft pick.
The Bills said the decision to send players home was made as “a disciplined, proactive and preventative approach” in a bid to eliminate additional cases.
The Bills did not provide a timeline as to how long rookies would continue working remotely.
Undrafted rookie defensive back Ike Brown was placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, followed by defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and receiver Duke Williams on Wednesday.
The Vikings placed linebacker Anthony Barr on the reserve list for COVID-19, the eighth player they’ve designated since training camp began.
With Barr, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo and wide receiver Justin Jefferson on the COVID-19 reserve list — and defensive tackle Michael Pierce opting out of the season entirely for virus-related health reasons — the Vikings have have four expected starters already affected.
The Packers placed veteran kicker Mason Crosby, tight end Jace Sternberger and defensive tackle Trevyon Hester on their COVID-19 reserve list. Among the other players to be placed on the list are 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr., Raiders running back Devontae Booker and Browns punter Jamie Gillan.
LPGA Tour: The LPGA Tour’s return to golf has yielded two positive tests for the coronavirus out of the 466 given to players and caddies before they traveled and when they arrived in Ohio for the LPGA Drive On Championship.
The LPGA says Marina Alex had no symptoms when she tested positive before leaving for Inverness. Following 10 days of quarantine, she is expected to return next week at the Marathon Classic. The tour says one caddie also tested positive and did not travel. The caddie was only to scheduled to work the first event.
Gaby Lopez has the positive test result out of the 233 given to players and caddies at the tournament.
F1: Formula One driver Sergio Perez is out of Sunday’s British Grand Prix after testing positive for the coronavirus.
The Racing Point driver, who is Mexican, will now go into isolation.
The race on Sunday will be the fourth in the pandemic-affected season that should have begun in March.