Sankey leaves door slightly open for mid-April re-start of SEC spring football practice

PHOTO BY Jonathan Mailhes

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a media teleconference Wednesday that he totally hasn’t ruled out re-starting spring football practice.

But by the lack of confidence in Sankey’s voice and the events of the last week as social distancing and other measures of being made to hopefully slow the spread of coronavirus, the situation changes daily as more information is made public from international and national health officials.

If spring football practice doesn’t resume, Sankey said he’s “confident that we’ll be seeking opportunities to make sure our teams are adequately prepared heading into the season.”

Currently, all SEC sports activities have been suspended until April 15 when a re-evaluation will be made.

Like LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said in a Monday teleconference with Baton Rouge-area media, Sankey confirmed the SEC is concentrating on the fall season.

“Our focus is on preparing for the (2020-21) academic year, the fall season as currently scheduled,” Sankey said. “We’ll obviously think about everything going forward because we’re being guided by public health information and decision-making. My hope is we can return to our normal organized activities and be part of that celebration around soccer, volleyball, cross country and football in the fall. But we’ll have to see.”

Sankey was asked how optimistic he is that a complete football season will be played in 2020.

“That’s my focus. I’m a half-full perspective person so I have optimism,” Sankey said. “We have taken measures, as have our colleague conferences at this time. I think that if I read those health leaders, they say we are going to have a period of time, see what happens with the growth of these cases and we will make decisions down the road.

“For me, my responsibility is to support the public health decision making but also to be prepared to do our work that’s assigned to us. We have categorized things for everyone — one is to be focused on the work we have. The second is to make sure we are prepared for next year as planned and third is to engage in big picture thinking, in which contingency planning but also strategic planning.”

The next two dates on the SEC calendar are the league business meetings in Destin, Fla. on May 26-29 and the SEC Football Media Days in Atlanta on July 13-16.

Sankey wasn’t sure about the business meetings, attended by head coaches from football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball as well as athletics directors, presidents and chancellors, women’s sports administrators, athletic academic representatives, sports information directors, bowl representatives, TV network executives and league corporate sponsors.

He was more optimistic about football media day, but added he felt the same about the men’s basketball tournament before things suddenly changed and the decision was made to cancel it.

“We’re going to prepare for disruption,” Sankey said. “But we’re going to plan as if, in July, we’re going to have the media days opportunity as scheduled.”

Sankey said he and his staff were in the process of reading an eight-page report prepared by the SEC compliance staff concerning the best way to implement the NCAA granting additional eligibility to athletes in spring sports who had their seasons cancelled.

“What are we going to do about scholarship limits, what are we going to do about those who have signed with certain expectations, so there are a there are a number of sensitivities here that merit the kind of discussion that I know is occurring right now,” Sankey said. “Again, my encouragement is that be done in a relatively time efficient manner.”

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Ron Higgins

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