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UK and SEC issue statements on 2020 football schedule changes

SEC football is going to look drastically different this fall.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

On Thursday, the SEC finalized its adjusted schedule for the 2020 college football season. It features a 10-game conference-only schedule that will begin the week of Sept. 26.

“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,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a press release. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”

Each SEC team will have one mid-season open date and an open date on Dec. 12. The SEC Football Championship Game, previously set for Dec. 5, will now be played Dec. 19 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“Our adjusted schedule puts us in the best possible position to play the 2020 football season,” UK AD Mitch Barnhart said in a press release. “We are excited to focus as a football program and an athletics department on preparing to kick off the season on Sept. 26.”

With the adjusted schedule, UK’s annual rivalry game with Louisville will not be played this season. Also canceled are nonconference games vs. Eastern Michigan, Kent State, and Eastern Illinois.

“I fully support the SEC’s decision to move to conference-only games, though we are disappointed we won’t have the chance to compete with Louisville for the Governor’s Cup this season,” Barnhart said. “That series means a great deal to the Commonwealth and we look forward to working with Louisville to continue the series in seasons to come.”

The hope is this rescheduled schedule will allow the SEC to better navigate around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” said Sankey.

Because of the schedule change, every SEC team will have two conference games added to their previous slate of league matchups. A finalized schedule for all 14 league members will be determined at a later date.

“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 nonconference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”

And as a reminder, the SEC announced in July that student-athletes in all sports who elect to not participate in athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to the coronavirus will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team. Thus far, no SEC player has opted out of the upcoming season, but that’s likely to change in the coming weeks now that everyone knows when the official start date.