WATCH: College football return scenario takes turn out West, Georgia rivalry question triggered
ATHENS — The Southeastern Conference was never going to go it alone.
But SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has left room for the possibility that college football could move forward without some conferences having all of its members on board.
First things first, though, Sankey appeared on the SEC Network on Tuesday to erase any ill-conceived notion that the almighty SEC was considering going it alone this season.
“The notion that one thinks one conference is going to go off and be doing something independently isn’t attached to reality,” Sankey said on The Paul Finebaum Show.
The question is, which conferences might be willing to move forward without all of its member schools?
That’s a reality staring the Pac-12 in the face after the chancellor of the California State University system said classes will continue to be held online on account of the coronavirus, per EdSource.com.
Chancellor Tim White said Tuesday there would be “limited exceptions” for courses across a 23-campus system.
Could the Pac-12 schools in the state — UCLA, USC, Stanford and Cal — be far behind? And if so, could the Pac-12 have a season with eight teams?
Stanford coach David Shaw and USC coach Clay Helton shared their perspective on college football’s return on a Monday teleconference.
Helton said he anticipates the Pac-12 will identify its direction “six to eight weeks from now,” as far as its model for the college football season.
One of the scenarios the Pac-12 has discussed is playing conference games only leading into the postseason.
“Many of us believe it’s not going to be 12 (games this season),” Shaw said, per the Seattle Times, “and it may not even start on time.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert said at a press conference last Friday that “all of the commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus.”
But what constitutes “on campus” is a matter of interpretation. Could there be students on campus but a high preponderance of online classes?
Sankey has allowed for that flexibility, explaining how the SEC has relaxed its allowances for virtual learning as time has passed and technology has advanced.
Shaw said much of the same thing.
“There may be a scenario to where campuses are partially open and if we can bring back athletes and bring back a section of the student body, that may not be exactly what Mr. Emmert was talking about, but that may be good for a certain university,” Shaw said.
“If they feel they’re comfortable and ready to resume part of their normal activities and still field teams for fall sports, not just football, then I think that’s going to be acceptable.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and other Pac-12 coaches indicated they’d prefer a uniform official start of training date.
But Whittingham also indicated he understands the concept of a level playing field is hard to attain, and he supports athletes training in states that are open.
“There’s imbalances and inequities all across the board in the NCAA, facility-wise, recruiting bases,” Whittingham said in an AP report. “Nothing’s equal when you really look at it, and so I would hate to see athletes just sitting around that you could be training and getting ready for the season just because other places aren’t quite yet to that point.”
“Normally, there’s an agreed-upon start date for every sport, every season,” Emmert told ESPN, “but under these circumstances, now that’s all been derailed by the pandemic. It won’t be the conferences that can do that, either. It will be the local and state health officials that say whether or not you can open and play football with fans.
“We already saw the Oregon governor offering her views on what’s likely to happen in September. The Pac-12 can say, ‘Gee, we’d all like to open up on this date,’ but whether or not you can is going to be ultimately up to the state and local health officials and the campus itself making a decision whether or not they want to go forward.”
Tuesday’s On The Beat Show also discussed the ramifications the COVID-19 crisis could have on how the Georgia-Florida game is scheduled after the contract runs out in 2023.