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No USC-Clemson game this year due to COVID, SEC says

The conference is moving to a conference only slate, meaning this is the first time since 1908 the game won't take place.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina and Clemson will not play their annual football game this year, after the SEC announced its teams will play a conference only schedule.

The announcement came late Thursday afternoon the SEC will have a 10 game, conference only slate. 

“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," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.

This is the first time since 1908 that Clemson and USC have not played their rivalry game. In the past, World War I, World War II, the 1918 Spanish Flu, and the assasination of President John F. Kennedy did not cause the game to be scrubbed.

This comes one day after the ACC passed a schedule that would have allowed for such games.

South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner issued a statment saying he agreed that the conference only schedule is the best option, but said he's said to lose the big game.

"I am disappointed that we will not play our in-state rival this year. It is a great rivalry and one of the nation's best," Tanner said. 'The pandemic has created many challenges and forced us to make adjustments. I am glad that we are planning to play football this fall. I look forward to renewing the rivalry in 2021."

"It's unfortunate that we will not be playing Clemson this season but that wasn't our choice, it was a league decision, said USC Head Coach Will Muschamp. "That's a game that is important to our program, our institution and our state, and one that President Caslen and Coach Tanner pushed hard to make happen. I look forward to renewing the rivalry in 2021."

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Under this plan, SEC games would begin on September 26. The SEC Football Championship Game will be played December 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, rescheduled from the original date of December 5. The schedule will include one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on December 12 for all schools.

Credit: AP
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross (8) comes down with a reception against South Carolina defensive back Israel Mukuamu (24) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

“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,” Sankey said. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”

RELATED: Clemson to play 11 game schedule under ACC plan

The league said they made the decision following extensive discussions and thorough deliberation among the SEC’s Presidents and Chancellors, Athletics Directors, Conference Office staff, and medical advisors, led by the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.

“After careful consideration of the public health indicators in our region and following advice of our medical advisors, 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,” said Sankey.

The conference said it went with this plan to give it maximum flexibility in making any necessary scheduling adjustments while reacting to developments around the pandemic and continued advice from medical professionals.

“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,” Sankey said. “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.”

The rescheduled start to the season will allow the SEC to continue to monitor health trends across its 11-state footprint, as well as monitor developments in technology around mitigation and treatment of the virus, including:

  • Trends in public health indicators throughout the SEC’s 11-state footprint, including positive cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and recovery statistics
  • State, local and campus heath directives, including restrictions on gatherings, isolation requirements for travelers, and other health and travel restrictions
  • Continued development of risk mitigation strategies
  • Continued advancement in COVID-19 testing reliability and availability
  • Continued evolution of time-based strategies for resuming activities after positive test results, including contact tracing, isolation and quarantine requirements
  • Observation of successes and challenges presented by return to competition in other sports

A revised schedule for the 2020 SEC football season will be announced at a later date following approval by the Conference’s athletics directors.

Further decisions regarding safety standards related to athletics events, tailgating and other game day activities, including social distancing, face covering and other health measures consistent with CDC, state and local guidelines, will be announced at a later date.