The schools of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, including three from Mississippi, decided Monday to postpone all of their fall sports until the spring semester.
The decision, which cited the ongoing pandemic, affects Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State as well as seven other member schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Athletes would be able to attend classes while training and practicing in the fall.
“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 league said in a statement.
The decision will cost Mississippi State a home game, which was scheduled for Nov. 21 against Alabama A&M.
Alcorn State was scheduled to open the season on Sept. 5 at Auburn. If the SEC ultimately decides on a shortened, conference-only schedule, Mississippi State and Auburn would not need to find replacements.
In addition to football, fall sports that would be impacted are cross country, women soccer and women’s volleyball.
The SWAC’s return-to-play plan calls for a seven-game football schedule after an eight-week training period that would begin in January. League schools would play six conference games and have the option to play one non-league game.
While several NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conferences have announced that they will not play football this fall, the SWAC was the first to outline any specifics about a spring season.
“We wanted our fans to have something to look forward to,” SWAC commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland told 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.”
McClelland said any return to play in the spring assumes the current pandemic “is under control.”
Plans for the other fall sports will be announced later.
The decision also takes a scheduled Sept. 19 game for Jackson State at Southern Miss off the board.
Southern Miss director of athletics Jeremy McClain issued a statement that said his school was “in discussions with several programs” about filling that home date.