College football running out of time to get things right

ATHENS — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has been consistent about staying on task, even as the circumstances around him where COVID-19 and resulting political fallout is concerned.

Sankey acknowledged Saturday on the Marty & McGee ESPN radio show that college football is “running out of time to correct and get things right” with the season fast approaching.

RELATED: 3 key factors in Georgia football playing games this fall

Georgia football players have been involved in voluntary workouts since June 8 and are scheduled to begin workouts under the direction of head coach Kirby Smart and his staff on Wednesday.

Most teams’ coaching staffs will be allowed to oversee workouts beginning on Monday.

UGA would need a waiver to begin its workouts on Monday on account of  its Sept. 7 neutral site opener with Virginia, whereas most teams start on Saturday, Sept. 5. 

Without fans in attendance — which seems a likely possibility at the start of the season — it wouldn’t seem to make much sense (or dollars) for Mercedes-Benz Stadium to host the game between Georgia and Virginia.

But for now, Sankey is standing pat on his goals, even as COVID-19 trends in the South are trending in the wrong direction.

“What I’ve tried to do is both keep a focus on what’s ahead but provide reality, which has been I’m going to focus on preparing to play the season as scheduled but acknowledge the circumstances around coronavirus are going to guide us in that decision-making,” Sankey said.

“And the reality right now is the trends in our region, in our nation, are not in the positive direction for being able to have normal experiences.”

The Big Ten blindsided the collegiate football world on Thursday when it announced it would be playing a 10-game regular-season conference schedule only. On Friday, the Pac-12 followed suit.

RELATED: How Georgia could get break with 10-game league schedule

Sankey said he does not feel pressured by those decisions, and he’s sticking to his “late July” timeline for making a decision on the SEC’s season. The Big 12 and ACC have also announced they will wait until the end of July.

“I don’t feel any pressure because of somebody else’s decisions,” Sankey said.

“I’ve said publicly we’re all linked nationally, so when other people make decisions, yup, there’s an impact, but also we’re going to look at our situation and make a decision that’s appropriate for the Southeastern Conference and most importantly for the health of our student-athletes.”

Smart said on a recent ESPN podcast he has stayed dialed into protecting and educating his players through the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Kirby Smart shares ‘outside the box’ thinking on COVID-19 policy

“I think the number one thing we’ve got to do is continue to educate ourselves and grow,” Smart said. “We’ve been told one thing, then another, then this has been said, that’s been said, tests are still being developed, (and) we know the inaccuracies involved in the testing protocol.

“There’s a lot of things that have to happen before the season comes about, but they’re also making progress really fast, we’re finding out more.”

More will be learned on Monday when the SEC commissioners meet in person in Birmingham to discuss the league’s fall sports future.

The NFL has a plan for its players to report to training camps on July 21.

Some headlines ran with Sankey’s comment that his concern about college football season is “high to very high,” but that has been the commissioner’s tone from the onset of the COVID-19 sports crisis in March.

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