CAROLINA FOOTBALL: Tanner is optimistic on playing in fall
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CAROLINA FOOTBALL: Tanner is optimistic on playing in fall

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COLUMBIA -- A day after the NCAA ruled football programs can begin bringing players back at the start of June, Ray Tanner gave a somewhat optimistic update to South Carolina’s Board of Trustees Thursday.

Tanner was asked during the meeting if every SEC school was preparing to play football this fall, and he said that was the plan as of today.

“We meet three times a week with Commissioner (Greg) Sankey three times a week and have had those discussions and our plan is to move forward. Commissioner Sankey has taken the approach time is on our side,” the South Carolina athletic director told the board. “If at all possible, that’s what we’ll do. Things may change with the number of fans and that’s to be determined.”

Under the NCAA’s plan, athletes from football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball would be allowed back on campus starting June 1 and continuing through the month, which is a positive step in the right direction toward playing this fall.

The bigger question is whether or not fans will be allowed, and Tanner told the board Thursday the athletic department is running models for every scenario starting with no fans and continuing to full capacity at sporting events.

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Tanner said he’s not sure if fans will be allowed in Williams-Brice and “time will tell,” but the prevailing thought is those decisions will be handled at the conference level.

“It appears the NCAA may have some conversations, but it’s likely to be left up to the president and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference as to what we do,” Tanner said. “That’s to be determined. We still have time on our sides. I know it goes fast, but we still have some time. We’ll always defer to our state government and local government officials and the medical professionals that are involved that are tremendously impressive.”

If there aren’t a lot of fans allowed, or any at all, it would be a big financial hit to the athletic department with Tanner continuing to call football the “engine for our athletic department.”

To save money, Tanner, Will Muschamp, Frank Martin and Dawn Staley have all taken voluntary 10% pay cuts to help the university save $1.2 million.

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The university and athletics are doing everything to save money right now, but the good news from Tanner is the plan right now is to start football season on time with the Gamecocks’ season opener Sept. 5 hosting Coastal Carolina.

“Whether we play or 15,000 or whatever the case may be, we’ve taken as many cost saving measures as we can take under the circumstances to mitigate lost revenue and to be prepared for what’s coming ahead,” Tanner said. “The intentions are for the Southeastern Conference to do its best to play the schedule as we have it.”

The SEC could take another step forward Friday with university presidents, athletic directors and Sankey meeting to see if they’ll allow student athletes back this June.

The football staff is already back working in staggered segments with certain protocols, which would be carried over to the athletes if they were allowed back. Muschamp detailed those here.

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“That’s a preliminary return. Tomorrow the presidents and the commissioner will have a meeting to determined the scenario would be as we move forward,” Tanner said. “We have protocols in place for our players to return and our coaching staffs. The safety, health and well being are paramount.”

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