NC State on Saturday became the first and only team in college baseball history eliminated from a double-elimination tournament with just one loss following a covid outbreak within their locker room. The fiasco should serve as a lesson for the football world of what can happen this fall.
One person who studiously took notes? SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
"I've got a new piece of video tape," he told Paul Finebaum on Friday. "(ESPN's) Tom Hart, Chris Burke and Ben McDonald right at 2 o'clock saying 'We're not playing.' We ought to play that for every one of our football teams, our soccer teams, our volleyball teams who begin play this fall. That's one real life illustration."
Sankey would go on to say the SEC can not require its players and coaches take the vaccine due to the patchwork of state legislative actions within the conference footprint. But, much like the NFL isn't making its personnel get vaccinated but is more than happy to make life difficult for those who aren't, the SEC will be much less sympathetic and accommodating toward covid outbreaks in 2021 than they were in 2020.
"That limits some of our strategic steps to enhance the vaccination numbers. But what we can do is remove our roster numbers from last year -- if you recall, 53 available players, a certain number of offensive linemen, defensive linemen, quarterbacks -- and say, 'You're responsible to have a healthy team and be present at the scheduled time on the scheduled date to play.' That very clearly says you're going to have to adjust your thought process, your operations in order to make sure you play."
The league moved heaven and earth to make last season happen -- canceling the non-conference season, pushing the start date back to late September, and shifting multiple games around to accommodate teams battling outbreaks.
This year, there simply won't be time. The SEC confirmed as much upon releasing its schedule back in January: 12 games in the 13 weekends between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, with the conference title game following the first Saturday in December.
With only one off week per team, those still struggling their way through contact tracing during a game week can't count on a sympathetic ear in the commissioner's office this time around.