Fall sports down the tubes for MEAC and SWAC

By Lut Williams,  BCSP Editor

They happened several days apart but both the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the two NCAA Div. I HBCU athletic leagues, announced in the past week the suspension of all fall sports activities because of complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MEAC announcement was made last Thursday, July 16 and followed it up with a Zoom conference call with the media on Friday, July 17. In the Zoom call, MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas and Howard University President Dr. Wayne I. Frederick, fielded questions and made remarks about the decision.

The SWAC made and announced its decision on Monday evening, July 20 after an emergency meeting of the league’s presidents.

The press releases from both conferences indicated that the decisions were based on concerns for the safety as well as the physical and mental health of student-athletes, coaches, administrators, support staff, faculty and fans.

For the MEAC, the decision affects football, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s volleyball and women’s bowling.

The SWAC has fall competition in football, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

Their announcements come on the heels of a plethora of conferences and individual institutions, inside and outside the HBCU arena, deciding to drop fall sports in response to the virus.

The two HBCU NCAA Div. II conferences, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) as well as the HBCU NAIA league, the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC), are among those who had earlier announced suspension of all athletics activities during the 2020 Fall semester.

Hampton University, that now competes in the Big South Conference, Langston University, Wiley College and others have also suspended fall athletics. Hampton and Morehouse, who competes in the SIAC, made their moves before their leagues announced decisions. The Big South has not yet suspended fall sports.

As it appears now, the only HBCU that has not suspended fall sports is Tennessee State University, part of the Ohio Valley Conference.

FALL SPORTS IN THE SPRING

In its press release, the MEAC only said that it had not made a decision about trying to play fall sports in the spring.

The SWAC, on the other hand, unveiled a somewhat aggressive intention and plan to play fall sports in the spring, with particular details about plans for football.

 Its release said, “The conference has 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.”

 Details regarding the other SWAC spring sports and the league’s championship football game “will be released at a later date,” the release said.

 Several conferences – the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (PSAC) for example – have decided to suspend all athletics activities, both fall and winter sports, until January of 2021.

The MEAC release did highlight that the conference currently plans to proceed with winter sports competitions (men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor track and field), unless health and medical professionals advise otherwise. “We will apprise the public on further decisions,” it said. There have been no final decisions made regarding competitive schedules.