There will officially be college football next spring — if the pandemic allows for it.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference made the move Monday, announcing it will replace its 2020 fall schedule with a seven-game season during the 2021 spring semester. While the SWAC is moving all fall sports to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, football is the only one that has any details.
“Specifically, in the sport of football the plan includes a seven-game conference schedule beginning with an eight-week training period in January 2021,” Monday’s release from the FCS conference reads. “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 about the conference championship game will be released at a later date, along with a plan for women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country. Despite having their sports postponed, all fall student-athletes will be allowed to practice and train once they return to campus — and as long as they meet COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
Related content: Five Conferences Cancel Fall Sports; WAC, Horizon Delay
A number of conferences have postponed fall sports, but the SWAC was the first to detail a plan to play football during the 2020-21 school year.
"We wanted our fans to have something to look forward to," SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland said, according to ESPN. "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."
“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 release reads. “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, which was scheduled to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, is made up of historically Black colleges and universities in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The number of COVID-19 cases in those areas will need to improve in order to kick off spring football.
"If there is no vaccine, if the numbers are still high, there won't be a spring," McClelland said. "We're not going to force playing. All of this is predicated on the fact the pandemic by March is under control."
Alcorn State went 6-1 to win the SWAC East football title last year, while Southern won the West at 6-1. Alcorn claimed a 39-24 win in the SWAC Championship. Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State also play in the East, while Prairie View A&M, Grambling State, UAPB and Texas Southern are in the West.