SEC Soccer Media Days opened on Monday in Hoover, Ala., the most recent likelihood for the convention to remind by means of banners, signage and billboards of that oft-repeated mantra: It simply means extra.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, nonetheless, strengthened a matter-of-fact-message for 2021. He even dropped an F-bomb — “forfeit” — to drive house that time.
“With six weeks to go earlier than kickoff, now’s the time to hunt that full vaccination,” Sankey stated in his opening remarks. “We all know nothing is ideal, however the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine is a crucial and unbelievable product of science. It is not a political soccer.”
It is a stong assertion given it is available in a area the place 10 of the 11 states in SEC Nation voted Republican within the 2020 election. This is not about politics or private choices.
It is about soccer. Simply how way more does it imply?
Sankey proceeded to reel off statistics associated to the COVID-19 vaccine and the SEC’s member establishments. Six of the 14 colleges within the convention have reached the 80 p.c vaccination threshold. The following six weeks will decide how faculty soccer matches into the vaccination equation throughout the South.
Maybe the purest pro-vaccine message ought to be, “It simply takes one sport.”
Ask North Carolina State, which needed to forfeit its spot within the School World Sequence. That’s the identical customary this soccer season will function on in 2021, a message the Huge 12 despatched at its Media Days final week.
“We nonetheless have roster minimums that exist, similar to final 12 months,” Sankey stated. “What I’ve recognized for consideration amongst our membership is that we take away these roster minimums and also you’re anticipated to play as scheduled. Meaning your group should be wholesome to compete, and if not that sport will not be rescheduled. Thus, to eliminate the sport, the forfeit phrase comes up at this level. That is not a coverage. What you see are the bookends for decision-making.”
The forfeit is not a certain factor, however Sankey provided it as a not-so veiled risk. What else can the convention do at that time? Think about how a forfeit can be acquired in SEC Nation. Remember the fact that final 12 months the SEC had two video games that have been postponed simply 4 weeks into the schedule. Think about if Florida-LSU — probably the greatest video games of the SEC season — was not rescheduled in 2020.
The SEC might afford to construct COVID-19 postponements into final 12 months’s schedule — a 10-game convention solely schedule with sufficient built-in flexibility to get its convention champion within the School Soccer Playoff. Alabama, after all, gained the nationwide championship. Texas A&M practically grabbed a playoff spot, too.
The SEC had probably the greatest plans for arguably the most-hectic season in faculty soccer historical past. The one two video games that weren’t performed in 2020 have been Vanderbilt at Georgia and Ole Miss at Texas A&M. The distinction this season is that flexibility is not there. Texas A&M and Georgia, which completed No. 5 and No. 9 within the remaining School Soccer Playoff rankings final season, would possibly want that final sport just a little extra in 2021. The margin for error is lower than 2020, even when the COVID-19 risk nonetheless exists.
“We have not constructed within the sort of time we did final 12 months, notably on the finish of the season, to accommodate disruption,” Sankey stated. “Until we’ll do this, our groups are going to must be totally ready to play their season as scheduled, which is why embedded in my remarks is the vaccination motivation.”
Will the opposite colleges hear? Florida coach Dan Mullen didn’t share whether or not his group had met that 80 p.c threshold. Each different coach in Hoover will likely be requested the identical query, and the one voice that carries extra weight than Sankey’s is Alabama coach Nick Saban’s. He had COVID-19 final season and has already appeared in a business encouraging followers who need full stadiums to get vaccinated.
That ought to be all of the motivation the gamers want, no matter private politics. All it takes is that one sport, and it might hold a type of groups out of the School Soccer Playoff. For a convention that loves this stat — 13 nationwide championships in soccer because the BCS began in 1998 — it ought to be a simple choice in relation to reaching that 80 p.c threshold.
How way more info do you want?