The Southeastern Conference will play a 10-game, conference-only football schedule this fall.

The presidents of the 14 SEC schools met on Thursday and agreed to the schedule changes, Sports Illustrated first reported on Twitter – a report soon confirmed by the SEC.

Reports of the possible change started to surface on Wednesday after the conference’s athletic directors held a virtual meeting.

The league will begin its college football season on Sept. 26, which is three weeks later than the original Sept. 5 start date.

Teams will continue to play a six-game inter-division schedule, and then will play four opponents from the opposite division. The winners of the two seven-team divisions – SEC West and SEC East – will meet in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 19.

"After careful consideration of the public health indicators in our region and following advice of our medical advisors, we have determined that this is the best course of action to prepare for a safe and healthy return to competition for SEC student-athletes, coaches and others associated with our sports programs," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said.

The decision to limit competition to conference-only opponents and rescheduling the SEC Championship Game is based on the need for maximum flexibility in making any necessary scheduling adjustments while reacting to developments around the pandemic and continued advice from medical professionals.

"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.  "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."

Per ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum, Mississippi State will add Vanderbilt and Georgia to its schedule and Ole Miss will add Tennessee and Kentucky. The cross-division opponents are the next to appear on each team's future schedules via the regular rotation.

The SEC announced that it will release the new schedule as well as safety standards and regulations regarding tailgating and other activities at a later date. 

Decisions on fan attendance will be made in communication with governors in each state.

Earlier this week Gov. Tate Reeves speculated that fan attendance in Mississippi stadiums could be as low as 10, 20 or 35 percent of capacity given the state's current COVID-19 climate.

With schedule change, Mississippi State and Ole Miss will each lose four non-conference games from their schedules.

Mississippi State will lose games against New Mexico, N.C. State and Tulane. Another schedule opponent, Alabama A&M, will play in the spring along with other SWAC teams.

Ole Miss will lose games against Baylor, Southeast Missouri, Connecticut and Georgia Southern.

dalton.middleton@journalinc.com

Twitter: @DLMiddleton8

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