ATHENS — Georgia football could open the season against Alabama on Sept. 19 in Tuscaloosa if the SEC follows suit with a move the Big Ten is expected to make.
The Athletic reported the Big Ten is expected to announce it will go with a conference-only schedule this season. The Big Ten plays an 9-game conference season.
The Bulldogs are currently scheduled to open the season on Monday, Sept. 7 against Virginia in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
“We’ve looked at numerous scenarios — multiple scenarios — for fall play,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said on Thursday after hearing the Big Ten news.
“We’ll start to really focus in on those now with our continued conference calls with our commissioner and ADs.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has said from the onset that the league would consider several options, and that ultimately the COVID-19 numbers would decide the best course of action.
“We will not determine the timeline, the virus will determine the timeline,” Sankey said, referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute on Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
“We’re going to rely exactly on our public health officials, at the national levels, state levels, and around our campuses and communities, to guide us toward a return to what we have known as normal.”
Sankey conceded last month that times have grown more uncertain.
“It will be open-ended for a while, and we’ll have to deal with that,” Sankey said on the SEC Network. “The reality is we are in a time of uncertainty. It’s not forever but it’s a reality.”
Gary Stokan, President and CEO of Peach Bowl Inc., which runs the kickoff classic, said earlier this week he anticipated the game to be played.
“I’m probably the most optimistic person you know, so we have not looked at the potential of not having these games,” Stokan told AJC.com. “We’ve talked to ESPN, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, all the teams’ athletic departments and gone through different scenarios of what we may or may not do.”
Stokan voiced concern at the time that there could be limited attendance on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re waiting for TicketMaster software so that we can start to scale out and model seating capacity to different options – 25%, 30%, 50%, etc.,” Stokes said. “We’re looking at all the contingencies.”
The Bulldogs are currently scheduled to play their home opener on Sept. 12 against East Tennessee, a final warm-up before a much-anticipated game at Alabama.
An abbreviated season limited to conference-only games would cancel out the UGA rivalry against Georgia Tech and give the Bulldogs an extra week before the SEC Championship Game.
The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets have played one another every year dating back to 1925.
UGA non-conference games 2020
Sept. 7 vs. Virginia (Atlanta)
Sept. 12 vs. East Tennessee State (Athens)
Sept. 26 vs. La.-Monroe (Athens)
Nov. 28 vs. Georgia Tech (Athens)
The Big Ten is expected to announce today that it will go with a conference-only football schedule for this fall, a person with direct knowledge situation tells @TheAthleticCFB.
— Nicole Auerbach 😷 (@NicoleAuerbach) July 9, 2020