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SEC goes with conference-only schedule, eliminating Eastern Washington’s season opener at Florida

UPDATED: Thu., July 30, 2020

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask  (Associated Press)
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (Associated Press)

Eastern Washington’s 2020 football season remains in limbo, but one thing was made certain about the schedule Thursday: The Eagles won’t face Florida.

The SEC’s university presidents agreed on a 10-game schedule that eliminates all nonconference opponents and is set to begin Sept. 26.

EWU was slated to open its season Sept. 5 at Florida, a guarantee game that would have given the Cheney school’s athletic department a $750,000 boost.

The Spokesman-Review contacted EWU athletic director Lynn Hickey on Thursday to inquire if EWU – a school battling serious budget issues that were further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic – would still receive the guarantee money, but Hickey said she was still learning about the situation and deferred to a news release.

“Whether or not Florida will reschedule the Eagles for a future date remains to be seen, but administrators from both schools are working closely together to determine the next steps,” the release said.

“Florida has been a great partner throughout this process,” Hickey said in the release.

“We hope we can work something out, but it’s disappointing for EWU and our football program not to be able to play as scheduled on Sept. 5.”

According to Sports Illustrated, which cited SEC administrators, a change in “league scheduling format” could free an SEC team from its contractual responsibility from a canceled nonconference game.

Florida’s three guarantee opponents included EWU, South Alabama ($1.2 million) and New Mexico State ($1.525 million), but a “force majeure” clause could also get the Gators out of those contracts, according to multiple reports.

“In the event of fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, war, invasion, hostilities, labor dispute, rebellion, insurrection, confiscation by order of the government, military or public authority or prohibitory or governmental authority, including that of the Southeastern Conference or the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or any circumstance making it impossible or impractical to play the game, both parties shall be relieved of any and all obligations of this agreement,” the clause states.

The Spokesman-Review has not received an official copy of the EWU-Florida contract.

EWU’s next scheduled game is Sept. 12 at home against Western Illinois. The Big Sky Conference has yet to announce the status or changes to the upcoming season.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced their intentions to play only conference games earlier this month, but the Atlantic Coast Conference this week announced a reworked 11-game schedule that left room for one nonconference game.

The ACC wanted to allow four of its schools to maintain in-state rivalry games with SEC schools, but now Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, Clemson-South Carolina and Kentucky-Louisville have been canceled.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have yet to reveal their schedules, but both could come as soon as Friday. Big 12 officials were hoping their 10 members would be able to play nonconference games, but options are dwindling. The SEC’s decision cancels LSU’s home game against Texas and Tennessee’s scheduled trip to Oklahoma in September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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