The SEC Thursday afternoon approved for 2020 a 10-game SEC-only football schedule starting Sept. 26.
The SEC’s planning falls into line with fellow Power Five conferences the Big Ten and the Pac 12 announcements in mid-July that due to to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic reduced their football season by eliminating their nonconference games.
COVID-19 has raged throughout much of the 11 states housing the league’s 14 teams prompting the SEC not to play on the Sept. 5, 12 and 19 dates originally scheduled for games, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.
“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,” Sankey said in a Thursday afternoon 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.”
Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek issued a statement following Sankey’s after the 14 chancellors of the SEC schools met with Sankey.
“Throughout this process, we have worked collectively and diligently as a conference to pursue the opportunity for student-athletes to compete in their respective sports, while maintaining the health, safety and wellbeing of student-athletes, coaches, staff members and fans,” Yurachek said. “Overwhelmingly, our student-athletes at the University of Arkansas have indicated that they want an opportunity to compete. The thoughtful plan announced today by the SEC will allow us to push back the start of the football season, while also providing the ultimate flexibility to accommodate a 10-game conference schedule. There are still many details to be worked out, but this is a positive first step in allowing us to work toward a return to competition in a safe and appropriate manner.”
First-year Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman commented via a UA issued statement Thursday evening.
“The most important part of all of this is keeping our student-athletes healthy and safe,” Pittman said. “I think this plan accomplishes that while giving our players the chance to compete. I’m so appreciative of Hunter, Chancellor (Joe) Steinmetz, Commissioner Sankey and administration from around the league and the SEC for their long hours and efforts to ensure our student-athletes are safe and healthy while getting the chance to compete this fall. Our staff is already working on plans to get our team ready to go. Our entire program is excited to know we’re going to play football starting September 26.”
The Razorbacks now cancel the Sept. 5 season opener against Nevada of the Mountain West at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the Sept. 12 game at Notre Dame, now a football member of the ACC and the Oct. 3 and Nov. 21 games at Reynolds Razorback Stadium against lower FCS division Charleston Southern and Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference.
The Razorbacks in a revamped schedule to be announced, will play as always against their fellow SEC West teams Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. Against the SEC East are scheduled to host Tennessee and visit Missouri at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, and add two more SEC East opponents from the pool of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
The SEC Championship game is scheduled Dec. 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.