COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Following Thursday’s announcement by the SEC to go with a 10-game conference-only schedule, South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner shed some light on the process and what the decision means moving forward.
Tanner said the team will play 10 games in 12 weeks with the Gamecocks having a bye week in the middle of the schedule along with an open week in case a game has to be postponed. The season would begin for all SEC teams on Sept. 26 with the conference championship taking place on December 19 in Atlanta at Mercedez-Benz Stadium.
While SEC officials were able to put together a tentative schedule format for the upcoming season, they were not able to save nonconference games for teams, which means this year’s Palmetto Bowl between Carolina and Clemson has been canceled.
“We tried diligently,” Tanner said. “I know [Clemson athletics director] Dan Radakovich and I have been talking for weeks about doing our very best to somehow keep that game on the schedule. We were unsuccessful in doing that. We all wanted to play that game. There’s no question about that.”
There won’t be any nonconference games, but Carolina will play two more SEC foes this year as part of the modified schedule. However, those teams have not been named yet.
Tanner also added that fans may be able to attend games this year at Williams-Brice Stadium, but the models that task force officials have come up with won’t allow a packed house when the Gamecocks take the field.
“I can’t tell you exactly what it will be,” Tanner said. “I’ll speculate today. That’s all I can do. Maybe somewhere north of 20,000, I’m guessing That’s just a guess at this point.”
In order for Carolina to host fans, the university will have to apply for an exemption from the South Carolina Department of Commerce because the events would hold more than 250 people in the venue.
Tanner stressed the safety of the fans, players, coaches, and all involved in attending games is paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Tanner did admit concerns about being able to keep athletes safe outside of practices and games.
“You would expect that when the students come back, there’s going to be some sort of spike. Hopefully, it won’t be too bad for the university, but it’s only natural that you’re bringing a lot of people back and that would be the case. Keep in mind, probably more than 10,000 students have been in the city for the entire summer because a lot of young people live off-campus and stayed. We’re probably looking at 18- or 20,000 coming back. I’m speculating there.
“Right now... our numbers are really good in athletics and things have taken a good trend as far as keeping young men and young women healthy and the testing protocols and symptom checks have gone very well. We’re hopeful. There’s no guarantees. We’re not immune to what we’re dealing with. So, it’s constant monitoring situations and that will be our first and foremost concern as we try to play sports.”
Student-athletes from men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball are also back on campus.
Tanner said student-athletes for all fall sports will be tested throughout the season and the athletics department is hopeful that the teams will be able to start fall sports.