HATTIESBURG • As Power Five conferences wrestle with unprecedented decisions, and as the Group of Five has become the Group of Three, Southern Miss moves on.
The Golden Eagles, of Conference USA, are in their second week of preseason camp with eyes on a Sept. 3 opener against Sun Belt Conference member South Alabama. That’s a Thursday night at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the USM campus.
Since Saturday the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference – two of the “Group of Five” smaller conferences – have canceled football for 2020.
Tuesday afternoon, two of the sports’ richest leagues – the Power 5 – pulled the plug, with the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceling their 2020 seasons.
“Yeah, I do,” said Southern Miss offensive lineman Arvin Fletcher, a senior from Madison, admitting that he reads the college football news. “I see it, but I don’t let it distract me.”
While the MAC’s decision on Saturday seemed to light the fuse on a chaotic college football weekend, neither Conference USA nor the Sun Belt Conference have backed off previously issued statements which called for their schools to begin play as scheduled.
In addition, those conferences have allowed members to schedule non-conference games to replace those that had been lost as other leagues began to opt out.
“Today was just a normal day for us,” Southern Miss assistant coach Chris Boone said following Tuesday’s workout. “Let’s not kid ourselves. Our kids have phones. As soon as they get in that locker room they’re going to look on Twitter and see something that somebody might have said. We just keep hammering the same message to them. Control what you can control.”
Santrell Latham, a senior defensive back from Meridian, confirmed that he checks the news on his phone.
“It’s kind of distracting, but at the same time you can’t worry about stuff like that,” he said. You have to keep moving forward. We have a kickoff Sept. 3. I’m getting ready for that.”
Less than two hours apart, Southern Miss and South Alabama will be meeting for the first time. It’s the first game in a home-and-home series. South Alabama didn’t add football until 2009.
Boone hopes football won’t be subtracted from everyone in 2020.
“I think our country needs football right now,” he said. “People want to play. The kids want to play. We’ve got a great medical support staff here. We’re just going to keep chipping away and block the noise out and get ready for the season.”