SEC Sticks With Status Quo For 2021 College Baseball Schedule

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After much discussion of alternative scheduling formats due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the need for strict health protocols, the SEC instead will stick with the status quo. The conference’s coaches voted for that format Jan. 7, as reported by Baseball America, and the conference’s athletic directors approved the plan Wednesday, according to a source.

The SEC will play 10 conference weekends of three-game series and allow teams to play up to 26 nonconference games, as usual. The conference schedule will be composed of the same matchups played at the same site as were scheduled in 2020, meaning that every team will have the same home and away series they would have played last year if the season had not been halted. The order of those series will not necessarily remain the same, however. 

College baseball’s Opening Day is scheduled for Feb. 19. SEC play would begin a month later, the weekend of March 19. 

Around the country, other conferences have opted for slightly different schedule formats to account for changes caused by the pandemic. The ACC will play 12 conference weekends of three-game series, two more weekends than normal, and decrease the number of overall games allowed from 56 to 50. The Big Ten has opted for a conference-only slate but has not announced what shape it will take.

The SEC considered nearly every possible variation to the schedule before deciding to make no changes. Throughout the discussions, one consistent threads was the desire to play and play as much as possible. Everyone involved was acutely aware that spring sports already had one season lost to the pandemic and wanted to create as good of a situation as possible this spring for those athletes.

“We’re going to exhaust every opportunity to play as many games as possible for their benefit,” associate commissioner Herb Vincent said in December.

Some of the SEC’s coaches, led by Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, also prioritized nonconference games for the overall benefit of the sport. There are teams with nonconference rivalries that are important to their fan bases, like South Carolina’s against Clemson or Florida’s against Florida State and Miami. But even less emotional nonconference games are still important—they create meaningful comparisons for the selection committee and represent significant opportunities for opposing teams.

“I think we have a responsibility to look after everyone, mid-majors and everyone in Division I baseball,” Corbin said. “If I’m at a mid-major and we’re reliant on major schools because we want to play them, and they mean something to our postseason resume at the end of the year, then we want to play. I don’t think we should take our ball and go home, at least at this time.”

In the end, the SEC was able to stick with the status quo because it is confident in its ability to play something approximating a normal season. And that’s what it will aim to do as baseball returns to Dudy-Noble Field, Swayze Field, Alex Box Stadium and beyond.

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