The Big Ten’s decision to play only conference games if there is a 2020 college football season at all has officials at the University of Alabama waiting to see if other leagues follow suit, particularly since a similar move by the Pac-12 conference would wipe the Crimson Tide’s Sept. 5 opener against USC in Dallas off the schedule.

Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne said in a short statement on Thursday that there was no immediate plan to postpone or cancel that game

“USC AD Mike Bohn and I are in regular contact,” Byrne said in a text message. “Our current plan is to play the game.”

 Several published reports, including one by The Athletic, have speculated that the Pac-12 would follow suit with the Big Ten, which made its announcement on Thursday with a suddenness that surprised many college administrators  

   “The Southeastern Conference will continue to meet regularly with our campus leaders in the coming weeks, guided by medical advisors, to make the important decisions necessary to determine the best path forward related to the SEC fall sports,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement released on Thursday evening. “We recognize the challenges ahead and know the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans must remain at the forefront of those decisions.”

   The possibility that the SEC will also go to league-only play is one option on the table.

  Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk said Thursday that “decisions about playing only SEC football games will come by the end of July and that the decisions to play those games will be made from the conference commissioner level.

 The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday it will not play nonconference games in football and several other sports this fall, the most dramatic move yet by a power conference because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league cited medical advice in making its decision and added ominously that the plan would be applied only “if the conference is able to participate in fall sports.”

“As we continue to focus on how to play this season in a safe and responsible way, based on the best advice of medical experts, we are also prepared not to play in order to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes should the circumstances so dictate,” the league said.

Besides football, the sports affected include men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.

“By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic,” the Big Ten release said.

 

 Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt

 

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