SEC says scholarships must be honored if athletes sit out

By: Matt Jones
Published: Friday, July 17, 2020
In this Dec. 5, 2014, file photo, SEC logo is displayed on the field ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship football game between Alabama and Missouri in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
In this Dec. 5, 2014, file photo, SEC logo is displayed on the field ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship football game between Alabama and Missouri in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

— If a Southeastern Conference athlete chooses to opt out of competition during the fall semester due to health or safety concerns, their scholarship must still be honored, the SEC announced Friday.

The league said any such players “will remain in good standing with their team.” The league’s presidents and chancellors unanimously voted to approve the measure that was recommended by athletics directors who met in person Monday at the SEC office in Birmingham, Ala.

"SEC student-athletes have frequently expressed their desire to compete, but it is important for student-athletes and their families to know the financial support committed to them by their institutions will not be at risk because of health concerns presented by the current pandemic,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

The SEC has suspended competition, but not practices, through Aug. 31. That decision has delayed the start of volleyball and soccer seasons at Arkansas, but does not affect the Razorbacks’ football season that is scheduled to begin with a nonconference game against Nevada on Sept. 5.

Sankey has resisted scheduling only conference games as his colleagues have done in the Big Ten and Pac-12. On Thursday, Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek expressed some doubt about whether the season would be played, but said the Razorbacks' schedule is unchanged as of now.

Yurachek said he thinks the Razorbacks’ players want to compete this year and are making necessary sacrifices to help contain the spread of the covid-19 virus in their community. Yurachek said "less than 10" athletes and two staff members have tested positive for the virus since testing commenced last month, and there is only one active case in the department.

“I have the luxury of having a son that plays football and a son that’s a graduate assistant on the football staff, and I’ll tell you that the football players want to play football,” Yurachek said. “Here’s the thing that they have told me, unequivocally: ‘Don’t put us through fall camp and then pull the plug on us.’ They said fall camp is the worst three or four weeks of football season. They said...make a decision before fall camp. And so, they want to play.

“They’re here working hard. The soccer team is here. We have 300-plus student-athletes. We have more baseball and soccer players here right now than we’ve ever had during the summer. These men and women, they want to play their sport. They miss it desperately. They’re making a great deal of sacrifices right now in their own personal social lives they normally have in the summers so they can be here and train and get better. They just want to play, and I’m going to try to find a way to make sure that happens.”

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