SEC spring football still taking place as other league sports suspended or shut down

Alabama photo by Kent Gidley / Alabama is scheduled to begin its 14th spring under Nick Saban with a Friday afternoon workout. The Crimson Tide will have next week off due to spring break.

After canceling the Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament Thursday morning, league commissioner Greg Sankey held a news conference Thursday afternoon inside Nashville's Bridgestone Arena and firmly announced the cancellations of the upcoming SEC gymnastics and equestrian championships.

So where does SEC spring football stand in this world of shuttered sporting events from professional to high school levels due to concerns regarding the novel coronavirus?

As of Thursday night, it was still in existence while every spring sport within the league has been suspended until March 30 and had its NCAA championship canceled. Tennessee held a closed workout Thursday afternoon, its second practice of the spring, and Alabama is scheduled to begin its 14th spring under Nick Saban on Friday.

"What we've said is that the presidents/chancellors level will delegate authority to our athletic directors to make some of these operational decisions," Sankey said. "We're not all at the destinations at this time, and we may not govern every one of those elements. In fact, the NCAA may need to engage and quickly govern some of those elements."

Auburn and Florida were scheduled to start spring practice Monday, but Auburn announced Thursday night that it will postpone its start. Georgia is set to begin Tuesday.

Spring football not only involves the 15 practices allotted by the NCAA but spring games that have grown in stature since Saban took over in Tuscaloosa. The SEC announced Wednesday night that the basketball tournament and spring sports would have restricted attendance before those plans were revised, but the league has yet to implement a strategy for spring football games.

Georgia's first G-Day contest under Kirby Smart in 2016 set a league record with 93,000 fans.

"We've limited the size, clearly, of on-campus events, and our campuses are doing that individually," Sankey said. "I don't have a prescriptive list right now around what's going to happen with spring practice and spring football."

The SEC has taken the stance of suspending all on-campus and off-campus football recruiting for the remainder of March.

South Carolina already has conducted five spring practices, and the university is on spring break this week. The Gamecocks were supposed to return next week, but athletic director Ray Tanner said it will at least be the week after that before practice resumes.

Vanderbilt, the first SEC program to start spring practices, has announced that its April 3 spring game will be moved back to an undetermined date, while Ole Miss has pushed the start of its first spring under Lane Kiffin until the week of March 30. The Rebels have their Grove Bowl scheduled for April 18 but will have to move that back as well.

Traditional Big Ten powers Ohio State and Michigan have canceled their spring games, while Notre Dame suspended spring practices Thursday and also scratched its spring game.

"We're learning, and we're making the best decisions on the best available information," Sankey said. "We've stopped on-campus and off-campus recruiting for a period of time that could be extended, and I think the NCAA needs to be fully engaged on that issue as well.

"The practice issue may be for them nationally. We've had some conversations, but I don't know that we came to a destination."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.