SEC to play 10-game, conference-only schedule

The SEC presidents and chancellors on Thursday approved a 10-game, conference-only football schedule for the fall that begins on Sept. 26.

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 full schedule will be announced at a later date.

“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 coronavirus 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 that 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 affected 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.

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.

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.

On Monday, Louisiana-Monroe athletic director Scott McDonald told ESPN that all 10 schools in the Sun Belt had entered the week with the hopes of playing a full 12-game schedule but that it was “certainly watching” the SEC.

With the SEC’s decision to go to a conference-only schedule, Louisiana-Monroe lost games against both Arkansas and Georgia totaling a loss of $3.2 million in guaranteed revenue from an operating budget of $15.5 million.

“It is certainly recoverable, but it’s significant,” McDonald said. “It’s material. It’s like in your household if you suffered a cut in about 20% income, you’d have to make some decisions. Is it significant? Yes, but we certainly will continue on if we have to make those adjustments.”

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.

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