The SEC dropped its schedule on Monday night, and Tuesday began with the release of the conference's protocols for hosting fans this fall. It's yet another reminder that, until we hear otherwise, it's full steam ahead in that conference.
The plan breaks out into 43 different bullet points, outlining everything from mandating face masks, to required protocols for guest shuttles, to outlawing paper tickets, all the way down to the proper way SEC stadiums should provide relish for fans' concession stand hot dogs.
The big issues:
-- Attendance is being left up to each school, in accordance with state and local guidelines. This was to be expected; the NFL is leaving that decision up to each team as well.
-- Face coverings are required for all fans, as well as all team and stadium personnel. Fans are required to wear their face coverings "any time guests are unable to maintain the recommended physical distance from others who are not in their same household."
-- The main question I had was not about how the SEC would handle fans inside the stadium, but out. The conference is leaving tailgating decisions up to each school. "Institutions shall determine whether tailgating or other large gatherings of guests (e.g., alumni events, university recruiting events, etc.) are permitted on property owned and/or controlled by the institution in accordance with applicable state and local guidelines, policies and/or regulations. In the absence of state and/or local guidelines, CDC recommendations on physical distancing should be applied."
Tailgating seems like the riskiest aspect of any football game day, even beyond line play during the actual game. Random strangers congregating on campus seems like the exact scenario schools would like to avoid this fall. A conference list of protocols seemed like the perfect opportunities for SEC headquarters to become the bad guy, thereby sparing each school from having unpleasant conversations with their stake holders.
Instead, the SEC decided to leave it up to each school.
-- Another tradition of strangers congregating in close quarters outside the stadium -- pre-game team walks -- are also left up to each school. "If permitted, institutions shall ensure recommended physical distancing exists and may be maintained at all times between walk participants and guests. Team walks shall be prohibited if physical distancing cannot be implemented during its entirety."
-- Oh, and as for that relish comment above, I wasn't joking. "Condiments shall be offered only as single-serve condiments, and condiment carts shall be prohibited." All beverages must be filled by concession staff; fans are prohibited from filling their own cups.