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LSU's Tiger Stadium shines as a beacon of blue, Thursday, April 9, 2020, to show support for the medical professionals, first responders and essential personnel battling coronavirus on the front line in Baton Rouge, La.

After a public outcry from influential voices that included high-ranking athletic officials and President Donald Trump, the fate of Southeastern Conference football was pushed back for another date.

The league's presidents met Monday evening and decided to continue to monitor the situation surrounding coronavirus, a source told The Advocate.

The dominoes seemed aligned for a massive collapse, a series of cancellations among college football's five major conferences because of concerns associated with playing during the national pandemic.

Two of the sport's five lower-level conferences have announced they will postpone fall sports until the spring. The Mid-American Conference declared their decision Saturday, and the Mountain West joined them Monday. The Sun Belt still intends to play its football season, according to Stadium.

It is expected the conversation for larger conferences will continue. Multiple reports say the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 still intend to play, and the SEC, at least for now, will also continue moving forward as scheduled.

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Sunday speculation that the Big Ten was canceling its season spilled into Monday morning, when the Detroit Free Press reported that the league's presidents voted 12-2 to end the season. A Big Ten spokesman later said no official vote had taken place.

Sportscaster Dan Patrick first reported the Big Ten's plans to cancel, adding Monday morning that the Pac-12 was expected to follow. The two leagues had been in crucial discussions since last week, when large groups of players unified under a list of demands for protections against COVID-19 and racial injustice. The Pac-12 coalition threatened to boycott games.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost showed resistance to a cancellation, telling reporters Monday "our university is committed to playing no matter what" and if the Big Ten doesn't play, "I think we're prepared to look for other options."

Last Wednesday, Connecticut, which competes independently, became the first Football Bowl Subdivision program to cancel the fall season. Old Dominion, a Conference USA member, also canceled Monday.

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The dizzying weekend was enough to spur immediate action within the SEC.

The league's 14 athletic directors already were scheduled to meet Monday, but the conference's school presidents called for an impromptu meeting later that afternoon, multiple sources confirmed with The Advocate. The meeting allowed the presidents to potentially vote on canceling the football season if the motion was presented.

However, the league made no firm decision. Conference leaders chose to remain patient, and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement that "the recent flood of reports surrounding college athletics does not alter that approach."

"I believe our student-athletes want to play," Woodward said. "We owe it to them to make every effort to do so safely.”

Before the meeting took place, Trump, various U.S. Senators, plus the SEC's athletic directors, coaches and players all spoke out publicly in favor of playing a football season — a collaborative action that seems to have guided the league's actions.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey posted a statement on Twitter, saying the best advice he's received since the pandemic began in March is to "be patient" and "take time when making decisions."

"We know concerns remain," Sankey wrote. "We never had a FB season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I don't know. We haven't stopped trying."

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Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek told ESPN's Paul Finebaum the athletic directors felt confident moving forward with their 10-game, league-only season and the health protocols the SEC announced last week.

"We're not going to panic because another Power Five conference may be making a different decision," Yurachek said.

Several SEC players began tweeting support for a season using the slogan, "We Want to Play" — a phrase star LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase also posted Sunday night. The Biletnikoff Award winner's father, Jimmy, said last week that Chase is "locked in" for the 2020 season.

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Coaches like Florida's Dan Mullen and Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin used the phrase too.

The SEC announced in mid-July that its players can opt out of the season if they had health concerns and they would not lose their scholarships

Alabama running back Najee Harris told ESPN on Monday that he would be willing to sign a waiver and agree not to sue the university if he contracted coronavirus.

Harris was on a Zoom call Sunday with almost 30 players from college football's five major conferences, and he told ESPN the overall consensus was that the players wanted to play so long as the conferences each followed the same testing protocols.

Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN that "players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home." It's a point several league leaders made when players were cleared to return to campuses for summer training June 8: players don't have access to the expensive medical care colleges are providing at home.

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But it's not certain college athletes would be sent home if the football season is indeed canceled. LSU has adopted a hybrid return-to-campus plan that uses both online and in-person instruction. Players likely would stay on campus, go to school and train as if it were the offseason.

Playing football and the decision whether to hold students on campus are linked. Shortly after the Ivy League decided in July to hold online instruction in the fall semester, the league decided to postpone its fall sports to the spring.

A common argument emerged: If students are already on campus, why not play football? Vice President Mike Pence urged LSU's leaders to proceed with online instruction at a roundtable at Tiger Stadium in July, saying he was "very confident" that universities can "develop plans to safely reopen campuses and restart sports programs."

Trump repeated that sentiment twice Monday.

"The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled," Trump tweeted. Within an hour, Trump tweeted more candidly: "Play College Football!"

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LSU and the other SEC schools are scheduled to being preseason camp Aug. 17 in preparation for the league's scheduled regular season beginning Sept. 26.

The SEC released its coronavirus protocols Friday. The league will coordinate testing with a third-party provider at least twice a week during the season, and schools are urged to find a way to test a third time.

"Our health experts have guided us through each stage of preparation for the safe return of activity," Sankey said in a Friday statement, "and, together with the medical staffs embedded within our athletics programs, we will continue to monitor developments around the virus and evolve our plan to meet the health needs of our student-athletes."

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