OXFORD A conference-only SEC football schedule carries a lot of advantages as the league tries to re-start amid an unstable COVID-19 environment.

While the Big 10 and Pac-12 have already announced plans for conference-only football, the SEC decided Monday it could put off final plans for a few more weeks.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey targeted late July as the earliest time to begin to see a form emerge from months of talks with conference athletics directors.

The most recent meeting was Monday at the SEC office in Birmingham, the first face-to-face meeting since the SEC basketball tournament in Nashville was abruptly canceled on March 12.

Monday, on the previously announced schedule, would have been the start of SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

As SEC leaders try to agree on a football plans the two primary components of the discussion are ensuring the availability of COVID-19 testing for players and staff and how to handle virus-forced play stoppages within the season.

Flexibility

There’s a lot of interest in playing only conference games from a flexibility standpoint. More open dates on the schedule would create the ability to, perhaps, postpone games one weekend and play them at another time.

Across the board decisions would come more easily when they involved only SEC teams.

“But you affect a lot of opponents,” Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter said Tuesday. “You think of these Group of Five and FCS opponents that we’re scheduled to play, the guarantee money and just the opportunity to come into an Ole Miss or Alabama for young student-athletes, to take that away, you don’t make those decisions lightly.”

Carter said the fact that two of the Power Five conferences have already announced firm plans doesn’t change things in SEC meetings.

“You’ve got to pay attention to those. Some uniformity would be better or good for college football, but at the end of the day we’re going to do what’s best for our student-athletes, our coaches and our fans and our league.”

With COVID cases yet to plateau, SEC athletics directors continue to hold out hope for an on-time start and a 12-game schedule, Carter said.

“We just don’t feel like there’s a reason to come off that at this point.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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