Video conferences get OK from SEC

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, March 28, 2020
Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, talks about the decision to cancel the remaining games in the SEC NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The conference tournament was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, talks about the decision to cancel the remaining games in the SEC NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The conference tournament was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Late last week, University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman was hoping to receive word that his coaching staff would be able to start having online video conferences with his football players.

On Friday, the SEC delivered the go-ahead.

Starting Monday, the 14 SEC schools will be allowed to conduct virtual film reviews and instruction through online applications such as Zoom or FaceTime. The SEC sent updated guidelines regarding team and group meetings to its member schools on Friday, 247Sports first reported.

The purpose of the new guideline, which updated rules put in place on March 13 that prohibited them, will be to allow schools to have instruction that resembles spring practice meetings. All SEC schools, like most around the country, are currently conducting classes through online resources only while efforts are made on limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

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The updated rules will allow two hours of mandatory instruction or meetings per week, though players could obviously put in more individual time at their choosing.

The SEC's newest guideline comes at a good time for Arkansas, which is wrapping up its spring break this weekend. Fall sports such as football, volleyball and soccer are allowed to conduct spring drills.

The Razorbacks had not opened spring practices in football at the time of the SEC's league-wide mandate to cease athletic activities. Those rules were applied March 13, and the Razorbacks were to begin spring practice March 16.

The SEC at first disallowed football teams from conducting virtual instruction two weeks ago to prevent the possibility of creating competitive disadvantages. At that stage, the SEC asked its members to concentrate on the health of student-athletes as they began leaving campuses.

Since then, there have been campus-wide closings with nearly all instruction going on-line.

The SEC had given member institutions authorization to share strength and conditioning workouts digitally with players during the first couple of weeks of suspensions, but virtual observations could not be conducted. Those guidelines will stay in place.

Pittman had talked last week of his hopes for being able to FaceTime individual players to keep track of academic progress, but now the Razorbacks can do more. For instance, they can split video conferences into offensive and defensive meetings or hold team-wide video chats or break it down into position meetings.

Though the players will not be back on campus, the online instruction will allow the coaching staff to go over the playbook or schemes and conduct meetings.

At this point, the SEC has imposed a suspension of athletic activities through April 15, but that looks likely to change as campuses contemplate being closed for the remainder of the semester.

Some in college football are worried about whether the country will recover enough by this summer to conduct camps and have football seasons on any level.

Among them is ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, who said on ESPN Radio on Thursday night, "I'll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I'll be so surprised if that happens. Just because, from what I understand, people that I listen to, you're 12 to 18 months from a vaccine.

"I don't know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don't know how you can do it with the optics of it."

On Friday, Herbstreit further explained those remarks on The Paul Finebaum Show on the SEC Network.

"I"m not trying to create drama or hysteria, I'm just trying to be real," Herbstreit said. "From everything I hear, we're scratching the surface as far as New York and New Jersey and Miami and Seattle and these other epicenters, we're just scratching the surface of where we're going to be in two weeks or three weeks or five weeks or eight weeks. I don't know how it ends ... other than a vaccine."

So for now, the Razorbacks and other SEC teams will impart the virtual instruction the SEC is allowing.

The new guidelines still do not allow for any physical instruction and they cannot interfere with required class time for on-line instruction.

According to the SEC memo, also obtained by 247Sports, "These activities may not include a review by or live monitoring of film/video of a student-athlete engaging in workouts or physical activity occurring after March 13, 2020. Institutions may not suggest or require a student-athlete to make film/video of his/her workouts or physical activity available by other means [such as social media]."

Additionally, players cannot be required to perform workouts and/or drills, nor can they be required to report back on such activity to any athletics staff members. The SEC notified its membership that further assessment of off-season and summer activities will take place in the coming weeks.

Sports on 03/28/2020

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