Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen Photo by: Mississippi State Athletics
July 30, 2020 4:28:36 PM
STARKVILLE -- The Southeastern Conference received as much clarity as it has in months on Thursday regarding its football season, announcing it will go to a 10-game conference-only schedule for the 2020 campaign in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Games are slated to begin on Sept. 26, while the SEC conference championship game will be played on December 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta -- a two week delay from its initially planned date of Dec. 5.
The schedule will also include one mid-season bye and another on Dec. 12.
"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," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. "This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities."
The conference also noted it will release a revised schedule for its 14 member institutions at a later date. It's unclear at this time how those opponents will be selected. Of note, multiple sources told The Dispatch Thursday following the SEC's announcement that it remains to be seen whether the Egg Bowl will be moved off its usual slot on Thanksgiving Day.
Multiple reports earlier this week mentioned that the cross-division games scheduled for each team in 2021 -- in MSU's case, Georgia and Vanderbilt -- would fill the now-empty slots on each squad's ledger, however Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger reported Thursday afternoon the league office may look to a strength-of-schedule based model to formulate the new matchups.
"Health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff remain the first and foremost priority of both the SEC and Mississippi State," MSU Athletic Director John Cohen said in an official statement. "While we are disappointed that we won't be able to engage in a traditional non-conference schedule for our fall sports, we fully support today's decision and plan by the SEC, which is an important step toward providing our student-athletes with the opportunity to resume competition this fall."
Though it remains to be seen who will be added to MSU's schedule, the Bulldogs will now no longer play previously scheduled nonconference games against North Carolina State, Tulane and New Mexico. The Bulldogs game against Alabama A&M that was originally scheduled for Nov. 21 was dropped earlier this month after the Southwestern Conference announced it would move football to the spring.
"We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur," Sankey said in a news release. "It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures."
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.
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