SEC baseball coaches approve plan for regular schedule; heads of decision to sports directors | USL

Southeastern Conference baseball coaches spent months debating options for the 2021 schedule. They thought about playing only conference teams, making four weekend games and facing fewer non-conference opponents.

Ultimately, the coaches decided to stick with the typical league format, voting Thursday to play 10 conference series with three games per weekend, plus 26 non-conference games, as first reported by Baseball America. The plan is submitted to the athletic directors of the SEC for approval.

“It’s their decision as to what should be best,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said, “but baseball coaches were pretty united in saying we’d like to keep the schedule as it is.”

Coaches also asked athletic directors to expand the roster size from 27 to 30 players for road trips and conference games to account for the possibility of players running out of time due to coronavirus testing. positive or from contact tracing, Mainieri said. He added that the measure would give teams enough players to compete in their appropriate positions in the event of a quarantine.

Tommy Lasorda served as a mentor and role model for LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri. They talked about everything from coaching to how to treat people, their relationship extending far beyond the game they shared.

“That too, along with the expanded rosters this year, would keep more kids involved and make it feel like there’s hope for them to contribute to the program,” Mainieri said. “It’s a bit of an extra expense, three extra players, but I think the trade-off is definitely worth it.”

Coaches considered other options due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has changed schedules across all sports since March. Early last week, Mainieri told WNXX-FM, 104.5, there was “a possibility” the SEC could play four-game, 16-game non-conference series. They also rated playing a conference-only schedule as in football.

However, league coaches want to keep the typical baseball schedule as long as possible, and other conferences have indicated their teams will play non-conference games at each school’s discretion.

According to, the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Southland Conference will allow non-conference games. The three leagues will play four-game weekend series within their conference.

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For non-conference teams to play against the SEC this season, they must meet the league’s coronavirus testing protocols. Mainieri said last week on WNXX-FM that the SEC would require teams to take PCR tests 72 hours before the first pitch or a rapid antigen test the day before the game, but the SEC has not released its requirements for spring sports.

“The feedback I’ve gotten from pretty much every school on our schedule is that they’re ready to comply,” Mainieri said. “They were already doing that level of testing.”

LSU players return to campus on Sunday and will receive a coronavirus test. If every player tests negative, the team will begin individual training on Monday. Practice begins Jan. 29, three weeks before LSU plays Notre Dame, Army and Air Force opening weekend.

“We still don’t know whether or not the military will be able to make the trip due to its institutional policies,” Mainieri said, “but we are working on it and hope it can happen.”

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The rest of LSU’s schedule will be finalized later this month, after athletic directors approve a season plan.

The SEC knows it may need to pivot to a format with a four-game weekend series, depending on the pandemic and decisions made by other conferences, but for now, coaches at the league want to keep the status quo.

“I’m just happy to know that the coaches have become unified at least in what we want to do,” Mainieri said. “We’ve talked about so many possibilities over the past two months. It felt like we kept talking in circles, but eventually we found what we thought was best. Hopefully the sports directors will agree with us.

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