Alcorn State’s decision to opt out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference spring football season has left Southern athletic director Roman Banks without half of his home games, and with many reservations.
Alcorn officials confirmed Tuesday that it will not play the six-game spring schedule that the 10 SWAC members agreed upon last year. The conference voted to delay the 2020 season to spring 2021 because of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland declined to comment Wednesday on how the league would proceed, other than to say he will meet with the league athletic directors soon to discuss the “next steps.”
Banks indicated he is confident the league will make the right decision and wants to see proof that the reasons for the opt-out are related to COVID-19.
“I have not seen anything as it relates to the reasons why,” Banks said Wednesday. “We have different rules and regulations for opting out because of COVID versus non-COVID. My resting place is our commissioner has a strict policy that keeps fairness in place for all the institutions because we made a commitment to play.
“If it’s a COVID problem, that’s one thing. If it’s not, that’s another thing. All of us are facing tough times, unprecedented times, financial issues that relate to what COVID has brought on us.”
Banks was especially chagrined at Alcorn State’s intentions to opt out while “moving forward with traditional spring practice to prepare for fall play,” according to a quote from Braves coach Fred McNair in the Tuesday press release. If the Braves can conduct spring practice, they should.
“I would love to say, ‘Let’s not play; let’s have a good spring and get prepared for the fall,’ ” Banks said. “But teams are going to be playing and getting banged up because we made a commitment. There are certain rules that protect all the universities. That’s my issue. I don’t want to jump the gun until we get all the points and factors and give the conference office a chance to do their due process.”
Southern’s game with Alcorn State was one of just two home games for the Jaguars in the spring schedule. Banks said spring rules give the schools an option of rescheduling if a game is canceled or postponed because of pandemic issues. But Banks said it would be difficult to find a replacement to come to A.W. Mumford Stadium.
“It’s so late. If we found a game it would probably have to be on the road,” Banks said. “The president and I have talked and for any fans that bought spring sports books, we’ll credit their account going into the fall season to say thank you for supporting us through tough times.”
If Alcorn opts out, it could actually help Southern’s fall season. Banks said the agreed-upon rules would require the Braves to return any home games missed by their spring opponents. That would give Southern six fall home games.
“All the other ADs are watching this,” Banks said. “There are a lot of things on the line. This is where the leadership of our conference has moved forward. Our image has changed to a viable conference with more credibility than we’ve ever had. How this is governed will speak volumes. This is a test of our faith as a conference, one of those decision-making times.
“The commissioner holds every university accountable. He governs through the rules, policies and procedures. He’s showed himself consistent in dealing with the universities. I don’t expect he’ll do anything different right now.”