Graphic Courtesy of SWAC
The Southwestern Athletic Conference has voted to move all of its fall sports to the spring of 2021 due to safety concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conference’s decision will have a far-reaching impact in Mississippi as three of the SWAC’s member institutions reside within the Magnolia State — Alcorn State, Jackson State & Mississippi Valley State.
“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.
The SWAC shares in the disappointment that will undoubtedly be felt by student-athletes, fans, and supporters impacted by the postponement of fall sports competition. The league will continue to review appropriate measures to ensure the health, safety and well-being of student-athletes, coaches, administrators and the local community which continues to be the primary responsibility of the Southwestern Athletic Conference and its member institutions,” the conference said in a statement.
While expressing their disappointment, leaders at Mississippi’s SWAC members believe that this is the right path forward to protect their student-athletes in these uncertain times.
“The safety of JSU’s student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans is our biggest priority. We strive to make reasonable and balanced decisions about how all aspects our student-athletes’ lives and educational goals are affected by the participation in intercollegiate athletics.” – JSU AD Ashley Robinson
“The rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases around the country heavily influenced the decision, as well as data that suggests that the African-American and other minority communities are being disproportionately affected. Decisions of this magnitude are made in the best of interest of the health and safety of everyone involved. Our goal remains the same moving forward, and that is to enhance the experience of the student-athletes to the best of our abilities. We will do everything we can to create an environment where our student-athletes can thrive academically and continue their excellence in a safe and supportive manner. As a conference and institution, we will all work together to get through this challenging time.” – Alcorn State AD Derek Horne
*Mississippi Valley State has not yet made a public comment on the matter.
The conference’s statement went on to explain that its leaders have started the process of “formalizing plans to conduct a competitive schedule for the fall sports during the 2021 spring semester.”
“Specifically, in the sport of football the plan includes a seven-game conference schedule beginning with an eight-week training period in January 2021. Each member institution will play a total of six conference games (four divisional/two non-divisional) with the option to play one non-conference game.”
With less than two months until the 2020 college football season is set to begin, it’s clear that there are still many questions that need to be answered. Today’s action by the SWAC will affect other schools here in Mississippi, including Southern Miss and Mississippi State. Jackson State was scheduled to travel to USM on September 19th and the Bulldogs were supposed to host Alabama A&M on November 21st. These games could have also become a casualty of potential decisions to play conference-only schedules if the SEC or C-USA choose to follow the lead of the Big Ten and Pac-12.
Last week, Millsaps had its fall sports calendar suspended following a league-wide decision by the Southern Athletic Association. The Ivy League and the NJCAA recently decided to push their respective seasons to the spring as well.
The high school football season in Mississippi has been pushed back by two weeks.