Sun Belt Commissioner gives update on conference amid COVID-19 pandemic

Elijah Jackson

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill conducted a media teleconference Thursday to provide conference-wide updates in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

During the teleconference, Gill announced the creation of the Sun Belt COVID-19 Advisory Panel. This panel is responsible for monitoring and providing guidance on critical conference and NCAA governance decisions.

The advisory panel members are:

Dr. Jeffery Dugas (chairman)-Orthopedic Surgeon, Troy Team Physician and NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards Committee Member

Brandy Clouse- Senior Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman’s Administrator and the Sports Medicine Director at Georgia Southern. 

Dr. Emilio Carranco- Chief Medical Officer and Director of Student Health Center at Texas State

Dr Benjamin Estrada- Assistant Dean for Educational Strategies and Faculty Development, Pediatric Infectious Disease, South Alabama Health.

Commissioner Gill said during the teleconference that the decision to cancel the winter sports championships and spring sport seasons and championships was not taken lightly.

Gill also talked about the contracts for championship locations for baseball and basketball. He said that basketball wasn’t impacted for Pensacola in 2021 but that they are still trying to talk about baseball being in Montgomery next year and for years to come.

He also said that the conference still plans to have the media days in July but knows that there’s a chance that the conference would have to either postpone the days, cancel them or even have them online in some capacity. 

Gill also answered questions about whether football would be reduced to even cancelled if the coronavirus pandemic would continue through the summer or even get worse. Gill said that Sun Belt officials have already discussed a number of possibilities which include a 2020 season that starts later than scheduled in early September, to one that includes only conference games, to even a season that is canceled entirely.

“We’ve started that discussion already,” Gill said. “We’ve begun talking about concepts. We’re about to survey our football coaches. And we’ve talked to our COVID-19 Advisory Panel, so that we can begin to put together some return-to-play protocol. As we think about it and try to model it, we need to look at all the contingencies  whether that’s everything starts on time to shortened season to no season. I really think the range of possibilities certainly exists, and will all be things we’re thinking through. At the end of the day, there needs to be a national solution. We’ll come up with ideas individually, but then we’ll all come together as FBS conferences and decide what makes the most sense as to when we start playing football.”

Gill and the AD’s meet on Friday to discuss how they stand as a group when it comes to eligibility relief for the student-athletes. 

“That’s where we’ll kind of finalize our position,” Gill said. “We certainly are going to try and provide some relief in that position. Those students have been through a lot and so trying to provide them an opportunity to be as whole as they can, with regards to their competition opportunities is something we are very supportive of. 

Gill hopes that the conference will come to a final decision by Monday. 

Elijah Jackson, The George-Anne Sports Editor,