The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced Monday that it is postponing all fall sports, including football, until the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the SWAC became the fifth conference in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision to scrap league play in the autumn, it also became the first of that group to specifically announce plans to hold the season in the spring.
The SWAC intends to begin an eight-week training period in January, followed by a seven-game schedule. All league teams — Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Prairie View A&M, Southern and Texas Southern — will compete in conference games, four in their division and two out of division. Each team can also schedule a nonconference game.
The Ivy League, Colonial Athletic Association, Patriot League and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference previously announced that they were abandoning plans for football in the fall.
SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland told ESPN regarding the decision to aim for a spring football season, “We wanted our fans to have something to look forward to. We wanted our student-athletes to have something to look forward to, and we feel like this is a sustainable plan that will allow us to be able to get it done, and get it done from a realistic standpoint.”
He did acknowledge, though, that the plan might need to be abandoned.
“If there is no vaccine, if the numbers are still high, there won’t be a spring (season),” McClelland told ESPN. “We’re not going to force playing. All of this is predicated on the fact the pandemic by March is under control.”
The SWAC also postponed the fall schedules for men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.
The conference wrote on its website, “Fall sports teams and student-athletes will have the opportunity to attend classes and practices in preparation for a spring 2021 competitive schedule upon return to campus. Student-athletes will have the ability to participate in conditioning, strength training and practices in all sports provided all required local, state and federal health and safety guidelines are met. There have been no final decisions made regarding competitive schedules for the league’s winter sports at this time.”
The statement added, “The SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors felt this action was necessary out of growing concern for the health, safety and well-being both mentally and physically of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, team staff, campus faculty, fans and supporters.
“The continued increase of COVID-19 cases across many portions of the league’s geographic footprint and Southern regions of the country played a significant role in the council’s decision, along with data that suggests African-American communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”