SEC teams will need to have at least 53 scholarship players available, including a quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen, according to guidelines announced by the league on Friday. If a team can't meet the minimum requirements, it can choose to play anyway. Otherwise, its game will be rescheduled or declared a no contest.
The SEC's minimum thresholds mirror those announced by the Big 12 but with one major difference. The Big 12's 53-player minimum includes walk-on players while the SEC guidelines only includes scholarship athletes. Teams are capped at 85 scholarship players.
Schools can also request to have a game rescheduled if they determine that "there are compelling reasons why it cannot begin a contest" that are unrelated to the player minimums. The final decision on a postponing or declaring a no-contest in that situation will lie with league commissioner Greg Sankey.
It would be unprecedented for a team to fall below 53 available scholarship players during a normal season. But with COVID-19 contract-tracing protocols in place, college football teams are dealing with waves of absences from practices and games. Missouri, for example, is already expecting to be down at least 12 players for its season-opener against Alabama on Sept. 26 due to COVID-19 protocols.
Several college football games, including five scheduled for Week 3, have been canceled or postponed as teams deal with COVID-19 outbreaks or depleted depth at certain positions due to contract-tracing requirements. Charlotte had to cancel its game against North Carolina scheduled for Saturday because of depleted depth on its offensive line despite the fact that only one member of its program tested positive during Monday's round of 200 tests.
NCAA and SEC guidelines say that players who have been in contact with individuals who test positive for 15 minutes without face coverings are deemed to have been in "high-risk" contact. Those individuals are required to quarantine for 14 days. Players who test positive must sit out for 10 days and be symptom-free for three days.