The Southeastern Conference is reportedly taking a major step to playing a conference-only football schedule this season.
According to Sports Illustrated, a majority of SEC athletic directors voted Wednesday during a virtual meeting to approve the idea.
The final decision rests with member schools' presidents, who are scheduled to meet Thursday. SI reports it's possible the presidents will agree to delay their own vote until next week.
“It is not appropriate to respond to anonymous sources and speculation," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "We continue our discussions focused on the return of fall sports, including football. We will announce any decisions at the appropriate time.”
The news came minutes after the ACC released its revised scheduling model. The league announced it will play an 11-game schedule with room for one nonconference game, and Notre Dame will play a 10-game conference schedule and be eligible to play for the ACC title.
The ACC's games will begin starting Sept. 7. The league's 15 teams will play in one division, and the top two teams (based on win percentage) will play for the league title Dec. 12 or 19 in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The ACC's decision, paired with the SEC report, outlines the inconsistent paths college football's leagues have made in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and they illustrate how many of the plans are at odds with each other.
The possibility for one nonconference game allows the ACC to retain some of the major in-state rivalries its members have with SEC opponents: Florida-Florida State, Kentucky-Louisville, South Carolina-Clemson, Georgia-Georgia Tech.
But Georgia is also scheduled to play Virginia in the season-opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 7. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told The Telegraph that the ACC's announcement "eliminates" the Virginia game.
Such decisions eliminated swaths of so-called "guarantee games" that are substantial pay days for smaller athletic programs. With Louisiana's 11 Division I schools alone, $15.5 million is at stake if teams don't play nonconference games.
Louisiana-Monroe stands to lose the most in the state. Its two major guarantee games are both with SEC teams: Georgia, which is supposed to pay ULM $1.75 million for their Sept. 26 game in Athens; and Arkansas, which is scheduled to pay $1.4 million for their Nov. 21 game in Fayetteville.
UL could miss out on a $1.3 million check for its scheduled game at Missouri on Nov. 21. UL athletic director Bryan Maggard said the school hasn't yet received any notifications from Missouri regarding the game.
Nicholls State is scheduled to play LSU in Tiger Stadium on Oct. 3, a game that will pay Nicholls $575,000. An LSU official referred to the SEC's statement and did not offer additional comment.
LSU has three other nonconference games this season, all of which are scheduled in September.
UT-San Antonio is the season-opener in Tiger Stadium on Sept. 5, a game in which LSU is paying UTSA $1.4 million. Then, Texas is scheduled to fulfill its end of a home-and-home contract by playing in Baton Rouge on Sept. 12. LSU is supposed to pay Texas $1.5 million (Texas paid LSU $1.5 million for last year's game in Austin).
LSU could also miss out on the $3.5 million its scheduled to receive from Rice for playing in Houston's NRG Stadium on Sept. 19 — the first of a home-and-home contract that has Rice playing in Tiger Stadium in 2024 for $2 million.
The SEC still has yet to make its official decision. It's been two weeks since the league postponed volleyball, soccer and cross country competitions through at least Aug. 31 — a move that gave the conference more time to decide what to do with its football season. Sankey often pegged late July as the best time for the league to make a decision, but he has since backed off that timeline as a deadline.
On July 9, the Big Ten was the first of the Power Five leagues to eliminate its nonconference games. The Pac-12 followed days later, and the Big 12 has still not yet declared their football plans publicly.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN on Wednesday that the league's presidents will be presented with four or five scheduling models to consider when they meet Monday.
"We're going to arm them with all of the information they need to make a decision if that is their wish," Bowlsby said.
Meanwhile, LSU's top athletic officials have made it clear they intend to play football as scheduled. Coach Ed Orgeron told Fox News on July 15 he thought there would be a football season in the fall with "some adjustments" and that he thought "the country needs it." It was a similar statement he gave at a roundtable with Vice President Mike Pence at Tiger Stadium the day before.
Pence visited Baton Rouge to speak with higher education leaders focusing on fall reopening plans and university sports programs, and he said he spoke with Orgeron and shared his opinion.
"I'm very confident that our universities can develop plans to safely reopen campuses and restart sports programs," Pence said then. "And as Coach O and I discussed today, I think it's important. It's important, not just for the student-athletes or schools like LSU, but it's important for America.
"I don't have to tell all the SEC fans in the room that the American people love football. We love our sports. And we all are prepared to work with athletic directors, with universities around the country to make sure they have the support, the resources and the guidance to move forward."
Since then, coronavirus cases have surged in the SEC region. In the past seven days, seven of the nation's top 10 states by case numbers are states with SEC schools.
In Louisiana, positive tests for coronavirus have been found in all 64 parishes. There have been 112,773 cases and 3,769 deaths caused by COVID-19 in the state, and the Louisiana Department of Health reported a year-high 3,840 cases on Sunday.