The Southeastern Conference on Thursday adopted a 10-game, conference-only football schedule for this fall, with opening games now set for Sept. 26.
That means Missouri will not play its previously scheduled non-conference games to open the season, instead starting Sept. 26 against a yet-to-be determined SEC opponent.
The individual SEC football teams' fall 2020 schedules were not announced Thursday. That will come later once they are approved by the conferences' athletic directors
The change was made because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The conference said it wants to allow member universities to "focus on the healthy return of their campus communities and the gradual re-introduction of athletics," according to a news release.
Further adjustments to the fall schedule could still be forthcoming as conditions warrant.
"This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities."
Mizzou's current 2020 SEC schedule included six SEC East opponents: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Its two SEC West opponents were Arkansas (an annual rivalry) and Mississippi State (a rotational matchup).
While the other two slots are not yet determined, speculation has centered on the Tigers' rotational opponents for the next two years: Texas A&M (2021) and at Auburn (2022).
All teams' 2020 schedules will be announced following their approval by the SEC's athletic directors.
The non-conference cancellations ensure this much: Mizzou won't be playing Central Arkansas, Eastern Michigan, BYU or Louisiana-Lafayette — its four previously scheduled non-conference foes — this fall. Canceling those games, based on each game's unique contract, could be costly, but that will be for the schools to negotiate.
MU athletic director Jim Sterk recently said there were certain perks to playing only in-conference games — namely, the knowledge and peace of mind that testing protocols and precautions would be uniformly administered. An FCS opponent might not have the resources in place for diligent testing, for instance, which could adversely affect the Tigers.
"It's a comfort level of how protocols are being enacted, how testing is done and then keeping it within that family — it's an expanded social circle or social pod," Sterk said earlier this month. "You might be able to control things more that way, or feel like you can, anyway, versus the unknown of people coming from outside of our 11 (SEC) states."
First-year Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz has been leading his Tigers through mandatory workouts that resumed July 24, with training camp slated to begin in early August.
Other Power Five conferences have also altered their schedules for fall 2020 in recent weeks. The ACC announced Wednesday that its teams would each play 10 conference games and one non-conference game, with independent Notre Dame joining the league for 2020. The Big Ten and Pac-12 had also previously announced plans for conference-only schedules.
SEC officials said any pandemic-prompted safety alterations to tailgating guidelines and other game-day activities would be announced soon.
"After careful consideration of the public health indicators in our region and following advice of our medical advisors," Sankey said, "we have determined that this is the best course of action to prepare for a safe and healthy return to competition for SEC student-athletes, coaches and others associated with our sports programs.
"We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur. It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures."
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