spkm_1123_LSU_v_Arkansas-7

(Photo on file: LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow (9) looks deep against the Arkansas defense during the Southeastern Conference matchup at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Saturday, November 23, 2019.) (AP Photo/Lake Charles American Press, Kirk Meche)

If come September the magic number for safe gatherings in society is still "10," my guess is that the Southeastern Conference will devise a way to play five-man football.

With or without fans.

Auburn fans would likely have to come up with a way to roll Toomer's Corner with something other than toilet paper, but you make do in times of crisis.

They're a resourceful lot.

Sure, the SEC loves all of its sports, or at least the conference office goes to great extremes to act like it does.

Baseball, in particular, is embraced in the SEC, softball too in some precincts.

But football is…well, football is football and it's a Southern-fried religious experience.

You heard it often when all the current sports were being wiped off the schedule in alarming, rat-a-tat-tat fashion: This is bad, sure, also unprecedented, but can you imagine if this happened in November in the middle of football season?

Perish the thought, of course.

It's probably no coincidence that in this time of peril, the state of Louisiana, with the rest of country nodding in agreement, turns to that noted immunologist, Ed Orgeron, for guidance and the gravel-toned inspiration that we will all get through this together—one team, one heartbeat.

You tell 'em, Coach O.

He told us what we already knew—that he's as real as it gets.

What he might have said, as only he could, is that if we don't get a handle on this thing it could threaten—gulp—the football season.

Spring sports are gone, of course, vanished into thin air—all that's left now is haggling over how individual college players will regain eligibility for next year for lost seasons of this school year.

But it was notable on SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey's Wednesday teleconference—with seemingly half the nation's sports media taking part—that the football word seemed to come up as much as anything.

Sankey warned in advance that most of his answers might be "I don't know," and through no fault of his own, he was mostly forced to keep his word.

Too many unknowns. Too many details to work out for these lost spring seasons.

He also has to qualify everything these days with the disclaimer that, even in the SEC, sports aren't of major concern during this global pandemic.

But sports are his job and he has to do it.

For once, he said, he'd rather be talking about some bad baseball umpiring call over the previous weekend…oh, for the good old days.

But in the SEC football is, in fact, a closely followed spring sport, and Sankey left the door open, if only a tad, that it might still possibly—somehow, maybe—happen.

Not the actual spring football ­games, mind you, as they're already off the table—which may be an unintended coronavirus blessing, given that those dog-and-pony shows only slightly resemble real football anyway.

But those spring football workouts are too important to the common good to be dismissed without a fight.

No time soon, of course—even individual workouts at campus facilities not are allowed before at least April 15.

But he did say about the ban on spring football games that "It does not apply to spring practices at this time, and I think that's the important qualifying phrase.

"No athletic activities through April 15—that doesn't mean we'll be back to normal or to practice activities April 16. It was just a date."

A moving target, for sure. And it would be pretty interesting to work around gatherings of "no more than 10, "until that gets loosened.

"Impossible into May," Sankey said. "So I'm not going to be overly optimistic about the return to (spring) practice. We haven't fully foreclosed that opportunity. But I think, practically, that window's pretty narrow."

If those spring workouts are ditched as expected, Sankey said it's possible extra practices might be allowed on the front end of August workouts.

"I'm confident that we'll be seeking opportunities to make sure our teams are adequately prepared heading into the season."

In fact, Sankey said the next major event the SEC seems somewhat optimistic about allowing as scheduled is—drum roll, please—you guessed it…

SEC Football Media Days in mid-July.

Mark your calendar. SEC football plans to survive.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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