Missouri will be staying home and in the Southeast this fall, as the Southeastern Conference announced Thursday that it will officially be adopting a 10-game conference-only schedule for the 2020 season, the conference announced Thursday.
The move also means the season will begin three weeks later, making Sept. 26 the official kickoff date for the SEC slate, with the conference championship game also being pushed from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19. Each school will also have one midseason bye week as well as a bye Dec. 12, the week before the title game.
“After careful consideration of the public health indications 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,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a release.
The changes come after an initial Thursday report from AL.com and one day after a report of the schedule change from Sports Illustrated.
The move eliminates four opponents from the Tigers’ schedule: Central Arkansas, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana and BYU, which MU would have played Oct. 10 on the road.
Missouri was set to pay Central Arkansas, Eastern Michigan and Louisiana a combined $2.8 million to travel to Columbia. The Tigers would have received $250,000 from BYU had they traveled to Provo, Utah.
According to previous Missourian reporting, MU had clauses or provisions in contracts with all four schools in case of potential cancellation.
In contracts with Missouri’s three home opponents, there is a clause that states, “In the event of fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, epidemic, war, invasion, hostilities, rebellion, insurrection, confiscation by order of the government, military or public authority or prohibitory authority, making it impossible or impractical to play the game, both parties shall be relieved of any and all obligations of this agreement.”
Missouri’s cancellation penalties for the four nonconference games this season would add up to approximately $4.2 million.
Missouri and Central Arkansas also added an amendment to their contract June 18, saying, “In the event of weather conditions, labor strikes, wars, acts of God, pandemic, public health crisis, government restriction/orders or other such emergencies,” both institutions will reschedule the game if feasible, although neither is liable for rescheduling or cancellations.
The paperwork to add an amendment was sent to all four of MU’s 2020 nonconference opponents. However, UCA was the lone school to reply, department spokesperson Nick Joos said Thursday.
In its release, the SEC said a revised schedule will be announced at a later date, following approval from conference athletic directors. All other decisions regarding safety standards for game-day conditions will be announced at a later date as well.
In an email to students Thursday, Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said he expects this year’s game against Arkansas to be played in Columbia, not Kansas City, as it was originally scheduled.
Sterk said the department has been in touch with Arkansas regarding the likelihood of the change, and, according to Sterk, SEC associate athletic director Mark Womack has also told MU the game will be played on Saturday, Dec. 5, not the day after Thanksgiving, as it has been played previously.
Sterk also said MU is planning to add two cross-division games to its current schedule, one home and one away. The Tigers are already slated to play six division opponents — Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and South Carolina — and two cross-division opponents in Mississippi State and Arkansas.
With reports that Missouri’s two additional cross-division opponents in 2020 would likely be Texas A&M and Auburn, and even a report that a league scheduling model would be used to determine new opponents, Sterk called it “speculation” Thursday.
“We do have a rotation ... a list on the other side of how that goes through,” Sterk said. “I’m not sure if that’ll be used or what will be used as the criteria for the other opponent.”
Potential cross-division additions to the Tigers’ schedule could include Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M or Mississippi.
The SEC’s schedule change comes after the Atlantic Coast Conference announced Wednesday that it would have an 11-game season with conference-only opponents and the option for one nonconference game against an opponent in the team’s home state.