/SWAC football move to spring causes ramifications – financial and otherwise

SWAC football move to spring causes ramifications – financial and otherwise

The SWAC is following the Ivy League, Colonial Athletic Conference and the Patriot League in postponing or cancelling the football season due to the pandemic. There will be more. Two power conferences, the Pacific-12 and Big Ten have made it clear that they will only play conference games. There will be more leagues taking decisions. The Gulf South Conference presidents (including those from Mississippi College and Delta State) held a conference phone call Tuesday to discuss the football question. A response should be available by Wednesday or Thursday. This is the bet: The GSC will not host a full season this fall. Conference USA and the Southeastern Conference continue to evaluate the situation. Both leagues indicated that they must reach a decision before the end of July. The SWAC decision will have far-reaching implications, including financial losses that could be felt both within and outside the SWAC. On Sept. 19, Jackson State was to face Southern Miss. This game, which would have been a huge pay day for both Mississippi schools, will not take place. Alcorn State was to open the Auburn season with a guaranteed of $475,000. This is a huge chunk of the school’s $6.5 million athletic budget. Derek Horne, Alcorn’s athletic director, isn’t sure how the Braves will make up such a large financial loss. Horne stated, “You need to tighten your belt and be as frugal in the future as possible.” It’s not as if we didn’t know this was possible. Since late February and early March, we have been discussing different scenarios, including this one. “The truth is that student-athletes’ safety and health must be our top priority. 1 concern,” Horne said. “In the SWAC we just felt, given the circumstances, that this was our best choice.” Horne spoke just after Tuesday’s announcement by the state health department about a record 1,635 COVID-19 cases. In the past week, 50 percent more cases have been reported. Remember: Football is the ultimate team contact sport. You can’t socially distance yourself from it. Horne stated that “it’s increasing and we have another major holiday (Labor Day), coming up before football started.” The SWAC’s “best” option, which is to postpone traditional fall sports until spring, will bring with it other stresses than just financial. Imagine being an athletic director during a season when your football team plays in a major home conference football game on February Saturday. Your basketball teams, men or women, are playing key home basketball games. Meanwhile, your softball and baseball teams are competing on the road. You also have events for your tennis, volleyball and track and field teams. How do you manage all this? Horne laughed at the question. He said, “You know that you have to get it done.” “You all pitch in. Many people don’t realize that spring sports season can be so busy. It will be an entirely new level of engagement. “You just do what needs to be done.” Horne only has four assistant athletic directors at Alcorn. This compares to the more than 30 associate and assistant directors each at Ole Miss or Mississippi State. Horne’s staff is likely to be even thinner. Jeremy McClain, Southern Miss’ athletic director, is reportedly looking for a replacement for the Sept. 19 Jackson State match. Given the similar challenges facing athletic directors across the country, finding an opponent shouldn’t prove difficult. It won’t be easy to find an opponent who would draw as many people as Jackson State. We don’t know how many people will be allowed to the games, if any. Uncertainty is the only certainty in college sports.