FOOTBALL: UT vs Vandy

Cedric Tillman (85) and Dom Wood-Anderson (4) congratulate Eric Gray (3) after his third touchdown run of the game Saturday against Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium.

SEC football is staying in-house this season.

Gone are the marquee non-conference matchups and the money games against lesser Division-I opponents, the SEC announced Thursday, adding it is moving to a 10-game, conference-only schedule that will begin Sept. 26.

The delayed start is aimed “to allow its universities to focus on the healthy return of their campus communities and the gradual re-introduction of athletics as the 14 members of the SEC continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19,” a conference release states.

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

The SEC Championship is slated for Dec. 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, rescheduled from the original date of Dec. 5. The schedule will include one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on Dec. 12 for all schools.

The announcement dashes a Sept. 12 meeting between Tennessee and Oklahoma in Norman, as well as a visit from former Maryville head coach and current Furman offensive coordinator George Quarles that was scheduled for Sept. 19. The Vols also were slated to play non-conference foes Charlotte (Sept. 5) and Troy (Nov. 21).

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

“A tremendous amount of thought and discussion went into making what we believe is a responsible decision on scheduling format, and it’s exciting to be making progress toward competition,” Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer said in a university release. “Our student-athletes and coaches are working hard to prepare while prioritizing health and safety.

“There are still several logistical unknowns, but we appreciate Vol Nation being patient and sticking with us as we continue to work through these unique circumstances,” he said.

Tennessee also stated it is coordinating a plan regarding game-day attendance at Neyland Stadium with the “understanding that potential limitations could change from week to week once the season begins.”

The SEC announced in July that the sports of men’s and women’s cross country, soccer and volleyball would be postponed through at least Aug. 31. Start dates and schedules for those sports, as well as sports in their non-traditional seasons during the fall, will be announced at a later date.

Follow @Troy_Provost on Twitter for more from sports reporter Troy Provost-Heron.

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