The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has announced that football games will now begin on September 26.
The football season, which was originally scheduled to begin in early September will be entirely composed of conference-only games featuring the 14 SEC teams.
During the shortened season, each team will participate in 10 games before the SEC Championship Game on December 5, which will occur at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Traditionally, teams play between 10-13 games in a season.
In a statement, SEC commissioner Gregg Sanjay 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. This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”
With the limited schedule, schools are expected to lose significant revenue. Last year, the conference generated approximately $271 million in revenue, resulting in payouts of nearly $45.3 million to each member school.
Additionally, most states are still under COVID restrictions for event capacity, which means that school’s will not be able to fill their stands during games. Texas A&M’s Kyle Field is the largest in the conference, seating approximately 102,733. Under Texas’ current reopening guidelines, the stadium may only be at 50% capacity, which leaves room for only 51,000 spectators. According to Brent Zwerneman, Texas A&M alone has over 45,000 season ticket holders for football, so the school may be forced to significantly reduce its student section to accommodate them.
The conference previously announced that men’s and women’s cross country, soccer and volleyball would be postponed through at least August 31. All three of these sports, along with sports that do not have their traditional season in the fall, like swimming and diving, will have their schedules announced at a later date.
Other Power 5 conferences have announced similar plans in recent weeks. Both the Pac-12 and Big Ten have announced that their football teams will only play teams from within the conference, while the ACC will only allow teams to play one non-conference opponent.
As a result of these decisions, many mid-major teams are missing out on significant revenue that they earn through playing top tier teams. Last year, non-conference games against Power 5 teams generated approximately $122 million in revenue.