COLUMBIA — The Southeastern Conference released roster requirements Friday for its member football programs to safely hold games in this coronavirus-shortened season, which mandates a minimum of 53 healthy scholarship players.
More strictly, the conference mandated a minimum number of positions players required at kickoff to start a game, including seven offensive linemen and at least one center, one quarterback and four defensive linemen.
According to the press release, it is at the discretion of the program up against the roster limit if they want to play the game with fewer than 53 healthy players or one of the other requirements. If the impacted program elects not to play, the game is either rescheduled or declared a "no contest" with approval from commissioner Greg Sankey.
The decision to reschedule or declare a no contest rests solely with Sankey. Programs that elect not to play can ask for the game to be rescheduled, and if the game cannot be rescheduled, should present information to Sankey's office, such as the number of sick players, to inform the decision of declaring a game a no contest.
As of Wednesday, Missouri had 12 players out, either because of a positive coronavirus test or because contact tracing mandated isolation. In either case, players are required by the conference to isolate for 14 days, which means those 12 players will not be available for the Tigers' home opener Sept. 26 against Alabama.
Missouri's numbers came from a round of tests administered Sunday, head coach Eli Drinkwitz said Wednesday on a Zoom call. The program went through another round of testing Wednesday and again Friday.
The Tigers' offensive line has been dealing with injuries and coronavirus-related absences on its offensive line in particular, Drinkwitz said. Missouri's center, right guard and right tackle positions are set, according to Drinkwitz, but the left tackle position has been somewhat of a revolving door, with five different starters there in five different practices as of last week.
Exact numbers have not been released, but the Tigers have 19 offensive linemen currently listed on the roster.
Their Week 1 opponent, the Crimson Tide, currently do not have any players head coach Nick Saban is sure will miss the game, and Saban has not released any information about positive tests or COVID-related absences on the roster. Alabama is also testing players daily, though, so that could change.
"Not yet, because we don't really have anybody that I know would be out for sure for the game," Saban said in a Zoom call Wednesday. "We haven't really discussed it. I'm sure when we get into game week and we figure out exactly who can and who can't, we'll let you know."
In Las Vegas, Alabama moved from a 23-point favorite to a 28.5-point favorite on the road in the two days since the news of Missouri's known absences came out.
The SEC also announced Friday all student-athletes will wear pregame warmup shirts saying, "TOGETHER. It just means more" with the conference's circular logo replacing the "o" in together. The slogan was first used in 2017, when the conference celebrated the 50th anniversary of its racial integration.
According to a release, individual programs will also be able to "employ additional initiatives throughout the year".
Missouri's football team has already delivered more than 100 backpacks filled with school supplies to elementary schools in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City, and Tuesday announced it had been working for nearly two months with donation network CarePortal and charity Angel Armies to provide resources to children in foster care.
Missouri said it has served more than 200 people in the foster care system in the last seven weeks, according to a release, contributing $35,180, and, "The team's economic impact is expected to double by the time case workers close all of the cases."