Southwestern Athletic Conference commissioner Charles McClelland, left, poses with Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders during SWAC media day Tuesday, July 20 in Birmingham, Alabama.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland laid down the law to teams regarding pandemic protocol for the fall season, saying teams unable to play would automatically forfeit, potentially get fined and have to make up any home game it costs an opponent the next season.

The league struggled through its spring season, originally set at six games per team, with multiple postponements and cancellations. Only one team, Jackson State, played as many as five games. Texas Southern, through no fault of its own, played only two games.

“If you miss a conference game, it’s a forfeit and there may also be a fine,” McClelland said. “We’re not going to allow one team to cause another to miss out on a home game and the revenue they would receive. That’s what we did with Alcorn State and Southern. They have to go to Southern two years in a row to make that game up. We are begging everyone to get vaccinated so we can get through this football season.”

McClelland said some teams have met the mark, some are getting there but some are behind the curve.

“It varies,” he said. “Some are lagging behind, but we’re confident we will be able to get to a number where COVID is not an issue.”

Alcorn State opted out of the spring season after losing its trainer and being unable to hire one until well into the time practice began. The Braves forfeited all six scheduled games, among them one at Southern, and will play at Southern Oct. 30 and again in 2022.

McClelland said the conference has established a policy similar to the Southeastern Conference, which says teams with at least 85% of its team vaccinated won’t be required to test.

Southern coach Jason Rollins has already said publicly 100% of his team, coaching staff and support staff has received the vaccine. An informal poll of the other coaches showed some are at or near the 85% milestone. Teams below that mark will have to play under the same restrictions in the spring season, meaning testing three times a week. Teams at 85% or above won’t be required to test.

What’s in a name?

Jackson State coach Deion Sanders caused a minor splash at media day, walking out of an interview session after ranting about a media member who called him by his first name.

“You don’t call Nick Saban, ‘Nick.’ Don’t call me Deion,” Sanders told Jackson Clarion-Herold reporter Nick Suss. “If you call Nick (Saban) Nick, you’ll get cussed out on the spot, so don’t do that to me.” He later added, “Treat me like Nick.”

Suss said it’s his habit to call coaches by their first name and that it wasn’t the first time he used “Deion” when talking to Sanders.

“When I interview people, I call them by their first name,” Suss said. “Whether it’s someone I’ve been working with for years or someone I’m talking to for the first time. This is true of the coaches and players on the Ole Miss beat, the coaches and players at Mississippi State and Southern Miss when I help out covering their teams and, as recently as January, even Sanders, too.”


ESPN's "College GameDay" will open its season by broadcasting the MEAC/SWAC Challenge game between North Carolina Central and Alcorn State on Aug. 28 from Center Parc Stadium (formerly Turner Field) in Atlanta. The game will air on ESPN that night.

It’s the third time ESPN’s showcase college football show will air from a battle between HBCU schools. The first was the 2005 Bayou Classic in New Orleans between Southern and Grambling, and then the Hampton-Florida A&M game in 2008.

"GameDay’s" first FBS broadcast will precede Clemson at Georgia Sept. 4.