The 2019 SEC Football Media Days take place in Hoover, Alabama, on July 15-18, 2019. The event hosted all 14 SEC coaches along with several players from each team. (Photo/Daniela Rico)

The SEC announced on Thursday that its member schools will play 10 conference-only games this fall beginning on Sept. 26. The 2020 SEC Championship Game will take place on Dec. 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, according to the announcement.

"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," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in the July 30 statement.

In a Thursday press conference, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said the conference-only decision came in part because only four of the 14 SEC member schools play non-conference rivals each year.

As for the delayed season start, McGarity said the move will allow the SEC to gather more data on COVID-19 and look at how the other conferences and the NFL get started before SEC seasons begin.

The SEC’s decision departs from the ACC's announcement on July 29, which allowed one non-conference game to be played in teams' home states. The conference-only format will eliminate the annual Georgia-Georgia Tech game for the first time in 85 years.

McGarity said Georgia will not fit the Yellow Jackets into either the mid-season or Dec. 12 open dates outlined in the SEC's statement.

"I don't think Kirby [Smart] would be too excited to play 10 SEC games and then play Tech the week before, if we do well this year, [the SEC Championship Game in] Atlanta," McGarity said. "It's just the way everything fell. We'll move forward and renew the rivalry next year."

In line with the Big Ten's conference-only format announced on July 10, the SEC said in its statement that the decision will allow "maximum flexibility" to monitor and act upon COVID-19 developments.

Starting the season 19 days later than originally scheduled will push the Georgia-Alabama matchup slated for Sept. 19 in Tuscaloosa to a later date. Georgia will add two more SEC matchups to its schedule to get to the 10-game mandate, however, the SEC did not release updated schedules in its statement on Thursday.

"The only thing for certain is that we'll play our eastern opponents, and then we have Auburn and Alabama obviously," McGarity said. "We have not even started that discussion [on adding games], and it was not an intent to go there first because it might've swayed some decision-making if we knew who were going to play."

Finalized schedules as well as information regarding tailgating and COVID-19 safety protocols for fans will be published at a later date, according to the statement.

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