On the first day of the Southeastern Conference‘s (SEC) Media Days in 2016, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey revealed the conference’s new slogan: ‘it just means more.’
As an alumnus of the University of Florida, I thought the slogan hit the mark, especially after having been neck deep in alligators for the past 50 years.
College football fans across the country have reason to believe it does mean more in the SEC. After LSU wrapped up an undefeated National Championship season last year, the SEC laid claim to having the top team in the nation for 10 of the past 14 years, the four exceptions being Clemson (twice), and Florida State and Ohio State (once each).
In a perfect world Clemson and Florida State would be in the SEC (so long, Texas A&M and Missouri – you didn’t think this was permanent, did you?), which would have made it 13 titles in 14 years, but that is another topic for another day.
As any self-respecting SEC fan knows, in this part of the country football is religion. There’s nothing – nothing – better than Saturdays in the fall when we watch our favorite teams rush onto the field – War Eagle! Roll Tide! Go Gators! Geaux Tigers! – to paint another 60-minute masterpiece, creating yet an epic portrait of brutality that will determine who gets bragging rights for one more week, at which time they have the opportunity do it all over again. Believe me, I look forward to those special Saturdays in the fall as much as anyone.
When the pandemic broke out earlier this year, people joked on social media that if the pandemic were to interfere with SEC football, there would be hell to pay. Basically, it was a joke because surely, or so we thought at the time, by Labor Day the pandemic would be a distant memory.
Now that September is less than a month away, it’s no longer a joke and it definitely isn’t funny. The pandemic hasn’t let up, and the end is nowhere in sight. The brain trust of the SEC waited patiently before deciding on a course of action for the upcoming football season. They wanted to arrive at the right decision, one that would be in the best interests of everyone involved – the players, the coaches, the students, the teachers, the administrators and the fans. On paper, it sounded as if cooler heads, ultimately, would prevail.
But they didn’t. Not by a long shot.
On July 30 the SEC presidents adopted a plan calling for a 10-game, conference only schedule this fall with a delayed start on September 26. Commissioner Sankey provided extensive details as to how he – along with SEC Presidents and Chancellors, Athletics Directors, Conference Office staff, and medical advisors led by the SEC's Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force – were going to pull it off. Their plan sounded about as convincing as the ‘three phase’ plan developed by the Coronavirus Task Force back in April; you may have forgotten it because it lasted for a shorter time than it took to explain it.
Good luck with your plan, SEC. You’re going to need it.
Apparently no one in the SEC has bothered to look outside the windows of their Ivory Tower to see the horrors that Major League Baseball (MLB) has experienced in the short time since the first pitch of the season. MLB players and coaches alike are testing positive for the virus – causing games to be postponed or cancelled (is there even a difference at this point?) - and the league’s commissioner is threatening to cancel the season entirely if things don’t improve. That last one, by the way, is the only intelligent thing to come out of MLB in 2020.
So what, pray tell, makes the SEC think that football - with team rosters four times the size of a MLB team playing a game requiring constant, intense physical contact with members of the other team - is going to succeed? By now we all know the pandemic’s modus operandi; it grows exponentially, and it only takes one to ruin the party for everyone else.
The pandemic has been going on for months now, and it appears the worst may be yet to come. During this national healthcare crisis, a game like football doesn’t stand a chance. So why - for the love of God - would anyone in their right mind think things might turn out differently for the SEC? It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue it would generate for the conference, could it?
Of course it could.
Until now, no one realized the ‘more’ in ‘it just means more’ could possibly be referring to money. As a lifelong fan of the Southeastern Conference, I’m disappointed in their decision: it’s selfish, shortsighted, irresponsible and dangerous.
It took a pandemic – a time when people are struggling simply to stay alive - for the SEC to show its true color.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia. His latest book, “Southern Charm” is a collection of his first 101 columns for The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com .