ATHENS — SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey recently equated states opening back up to the flicker of old fluorescent bulbs as he shed light on the status of college football.
“First you see states kinda of looking at turning the lights on,” Sankey said last week on the SEC Network. “It’s like the old fluorescent lights, where we flick the lights on and things flicker for a while, and then slowly those lights warm up.”
Sankey’s bottom line remains the same in regard to making sure all information possible was gathered before making any decisions, and not to be in any sort of rush.
The status of the coronavirus pandemic, which brought college sports to a halt on March 12, will still be the ultimate determining factor, as far as any timeline is concerned.
There have been some signs producing guarded optimism that college football could be back this fall.
Purdue and Missouri expressed positive messages last week involving students’ potential return to campus this fall.
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner indicated in an article by The Athletic that “conferences might not be aligned” when college football returns.
Tanner’s sentiment suggests that should there be some states not yet ready to open up this fall, collegiate football might still move forward.
That would be in line with what Sankey allowed for when asked specifically the week before about a college football season without all teams.
“If there is one small niche that’s inactive, but perhaps the entire Southeastern Conference and others are able to function,” Sankey said. “ … you would think there would be a bit of room in that decision making.”
Here are some points Sankey shared on The Paul Finebaum show last week on where things stand on the road to college football:
1) How to get back on campus with states opened
“One of the things that’s going to be right on the top of our agenda, as our states come back to life, is how do we think about bringing people back to activity,” Sankey said.
SEC campuses are currently on lockdown through May 31.
Sankey said that in recent video conferences with student athletes it’s apparent they “are ready to get back at it.”
That said, the schools’ have a responsibility to ensure all things are in order.
“We have to do that in a safe way, we have to do that with respect to the virus,” Sankey explained. “The circumstances around that virus are going to guide us forward.”
2) Potential summer return logistics
The NCAA Football Oversight Committee has advocated for a minimum of six weeks of preparation for players before the opening games of the 2020 season, per Stadium reporter Brett McMurphy.
Sankey indicated a great deal of coordination between conferences and the NCAA is ahead, but his goal remains to start the fall seasons as scheduled.
“You hear me say repeatedly our focus is on starting the season as scheduled, be it soccer, volleyball, or football,” Sankey said. “I said that to our student athletes, (that) I think that’s part of the responsibility of giving hope and optimism and leading to a finish line.
“But I know we’re running a marathon, and having done that in my life, you get lost in the middle you keep putting one foot in front of the other and know there’s a finish line out there. We just don’t know where it is.”
3) Gathering information during holding pattern
Sankey shared a conversation he had with a University of South Carolina biostatistician assessing COVID-19 circumstances.
“She said there’s two really important pieces of information that we don’t know,” Sankey said. “One is how many people have COVID- 19 right now, and the other is how many people have had it, and that’s about testing.
“That’s important because we’re gonna learn more and more as we go forward about what actually is happening around this virus.”
Sankey reiterated: “The longer you can wait to make major decisions, the better decisions you will actually make, all of that filters into our decision making.”
In the meantime, Sankey’s discussions with the NCAA, conference leaders, school presidents, chancellors athletics directors, coaches and student-athletes continue.
“We’re in this holding pattern right now … that allows us to have conversations, to think about the data we need,” Sankey said, “(and) to think about the testing we need, and the therapeutics that allow us to get back to activity.”