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Pac-12 players threaten to sit out 2020 season over racial injustice, COVID-19 concerns

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A text message circulating among Pac-12 football players is encouraging them to opt-out of practices and games until they can negotiate protections and benefits related to health and safety, economic rights and the fight against racial injustice.

ESPN first reported the possible movement among players at multiple Pac-12 schools and The Athletic published the text invitation. A public announcement, along with a list of demands, was published Sunday through The Players Tribune and social media platforms.

“Our [goal is to] obtain a written contract with the Pac-12 that legally ensures we are offered the following protections and benefits.”

Listed are:

  • Ensure safe play during COVID-19
  • Fight racial injustice
  • Secure economic rights and fair compensation. “Distribute 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports,” the players wrote in the Tribune piece.
  • Protect all sports
  • Obtain long-term health insurance

“Due to COVID-19 and other serious concerns, we will opt-out of Pac-12 fall camp and game participation unless [our] demands are guaranteed in writing by our conference to protect and benefit both scholarship athletes and walk-ons,” the players wrote.

The Pac-12 on Friday announced its plan to delay the start of the season to Sept. 26 and play only 10 conference games in an attempt to manage potential disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The states of California and Arizona, home to half the Pac-12 teams, have experienced some of the worst surges in coronavirus cases over the last month.

The Pac-12 approved a plan that will allow teams in the conference to start 20 hours per week of team activities, including weight training, meetings and non-contact practices known as walk-throughs. Preseason practice in the Pac-12 is scheduled to start Aug. 17, but currently USC, UCLA and Cal are operating under local restrictions that would prevent their football teams from practicing.

“Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics,” the Pac-12 said in a statement. “We support our student-athletes using their voices, and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics. As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts with health, safety and well being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority. We have made it clear that any student who chooses not to return to competition for health and safety reasons will have their scholarship protected.”

Also on Saturday, The Washington Post reported on a meeting between player representatives from Southeastern Conference teams and the league’s commissioner, Greg Sankey, and medical advisers. The Post obtained an audio recording of the meeting.

“For so much unknown in the air right now, is it worth having a football season without certainty?” an unidentified player asked.

Sankey responded: “Part of our work is to bring as much certainty in the midst of this really strange time as we can so you can play football in the most healthy way possible, with the understanding there aren’t any guarantees in life.”

SEC joins Big Ten, Pac-12 in going with a 10-game, conference-only football schedule for 2020

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The SEC has decided on the direction its football season will take.  If there is a college football season, that is.

Following a meeting of the league’s presidents and chancellors, the SEC announced Thursday that it will go with a 10-game, conference-only schedule for the 2020 college football season.  Originally scheduled to start the weekend of Sept. 5, the SEC has now pushed back the season’s kick-off back to Sept. 26.  Additionally, the conference championship game will be played Dec. 19.

John Talty of al.com was the first to report the development.  In confirming the report, the SEC added that each team will have two bye weekends during the regular season: one mid-season (different dates for different schools) as well as a league-wide bye the weekend of Dec. 12.  That, of course, is the weekend prior to the league title game.

“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.”

It had been expected that the SEC would follow the ACC’s lead and add a plus-one to the schedule, a non-conference matchup that was previously on the schedule.  Instead, the move means games such as LSU-Texas, South Carolina-Clemson, Florida-Florida State and Georgia-Georgia Tech are officially off the schedule for the 2020 season.

The 14-member SEC will play its six division rivals as well as the regularly-scheduled pair of crossover games.  The additional crossover games that will fill out the 10-game conference slate will be announced at a later date.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 as previously announced that those leagues would be going to a conference-only schedule.  That leaves the Big 12 as the only Power Five to have not signaled its scheduling intentions.

Below are all of the non-conference games for each SEC school that will be canceled:

  • Alabama — USC, Georgia State, Kent State, UT-Martin
  • Arkansas — Nevada, Notre Dame, Charleston Southern, Louisiana-Monroe
  • Auburn — Alcorn State, North Carolina, Southern Miss, UMass
  • Florida — Eastern Washington, South Alabama, New Mexico State, Florida State
  • Georgia — Virginia, East Tennessee State, Louisiana-Monroe, Georgia Tech
  • Kentucky — Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Eastern Illinois, Louisville
  • LSU — UTSA, Texas, Rice, Nicholls State
  • Mississippi State — New Mexico, NC State, Tulane, Alabama A&M
  • Missouri — Central Arkansas, Eastern Michigan, BYU, Louisiana
  • Ole Miss — Baylor, Southeast Missouri State, UConn, Georgia Southern
  • South Carolina — Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Wofford, Clemson
  • Tennessee — Charlotte, Oklahoma, Furman, Troy
  • Texas A&M — Abiline Christian, North Texas, Colorado, Fresno State
  • Vanderbilt — Mercer, Kansas State, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech

SEC guarantees scholarships for student-athletes who opt out of fall sports due to COVID-19 concerns

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While expected, the SEC has confirmed that it will not punish a student-athlete who opts out of fall sports due to CIOVID-19 safety concerns.  The only caveat?  They must remaining in good standing with their respective teams.

Below is the Southeastern Conference’s press release on the development:

Southeastern Conference student-athletes who elect to not participate in intercollegiate athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team, the Conference announced Friday.

The action is the result of a unanimous vote of the SEC’s Presidents and Chancellors following a recommendation of the Conference’s Athletics Directors.

“SEC universities are committed to full support of its student-athletes, whether or not a student-athlete decides to participate in sports during these uncertain times,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “SEC student-athletes have frequently expressed their desire to compete, but it is important for student-athletes and their families to know the financial support committed to them by their institutions will not be at risk because of health concerns presented by the current pandemic.”

The SEC will continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19 to determine at a later date if the policy should be extended to the Spring semester of 2021 or beyond.

The SEC is expected to make a decision on fall sports, including football, at the end of July.

SEC reiterates no decision on football until late July

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As expected, the SEC is going to wait as long as possible until making its next decision when it comes to the fate of football.

Last week, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey warned that “we are running out of time” when it comes to the 2020 college football season.  That said, Sankey reiterated Monday that his conference will still wait to make any type of decision until the end of this month.

Below is Sankey’s statement on the current state of affairs, which came after an expected face-to-face meeting of the conference’s 14 athletic directors.  The biggest takeaway? Sankey allowed that the current trend of COVID-19 positives across the country must begin trending downward in order for there to be a college football season in 2020.

We had a productive meeting on Monday and engaged in discussions on a number of important issues that will contribute to critical decisions to be made in the weeks ahead. The ability to personally interact over the course of an entire day contributed to the productivity of the meeting.

It is clear that current circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve and we will continue to closely monitor developments around the virus on a daily basis. In the coming weeks we will continue to meet regularly with campus leaders via videoconferences and gather relevant information while guided by medical advisors. We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced they are going to a conference-only schedule for football.  The ACC is in line with the SEC in making such a determination at the end of July.  It’s expected the Big 12 will announce its next move around the same time as well.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey warns ‘we are running out of time’ as decisions in the sport loom

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It just means more… angst when it comes to a 2020 season, especially when it comes to the SEC and the boss who will help decide if there is football this fall.

This past week, after the Big Ten’s decision to go conference-only games, both that league’s commissioner and one of its most powerful athletic directors sounded the alarm for an upcoming season. “We may not have a college football season in the Big Ten,” Kevin Warren warned. “ can’t reiterate enough the fact that we might not play. We just might not,” Gene Smith stated.

The SEC is expected to make its decision later this month on whether, like the Big Ten, to go to a conference-only schedule for football.  Ahead of that, Greg Sankey stated during an interview that the sport “is running out of time.” And blasted the politicizing of safety in the midst of the pandemic.

“We put a medical advisory group together in early April with the question, ‘What do we have to do to get back to activity?’ and they’ve been a big part of the conversation,” Sankey said by way of ESPN.com. “But the direct reality is not good and the notion that we’ve politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings. There’s some very clear advice about — you can’t mitigate and eliminate every risk, but how do you minimize the risk? … We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.”

The Pac-12 has already joined the Big Ten in going conference-only for the fall.  The ACC announced it will make a decision in late July.  The Big 12 is expected to have such a timeline as well.