It'll be about 4½ months later than usual, but Southern University now has a date for its annual Bayou Classic showdown with Grambling.
The annual football game between the Jaguars and Tigers has been rescheduled for April 17.
The SWAC, which announced in July that it was postponing football for the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, released its football schedule Monday for spring 2021.
Southern athletic director Roman Banks expects the Bayou Classic to be played in New Orleans, just as it has been been every year since 1974. The only exception was 2005, when the game had to be moved to Houston because of Hurricane Katrina.
"I think the plan is always to play the Bayou Classic in New Orleans," Banks said. "New Orleans is the home of the Bayou Classic, and that's always our first priority. Now it's just about checking with the Superdome and the facilities to see if that facility is available that day and make sure that they are willing to host us on that particular weekend. If not, then we go to trying to secure another venue."
Mike Hoss, communications coordinator for ASM Global-LSED that manages the Superdome, had this to say about the Bayou Classic's spring date.
"The Bayou Classic has been an iconic event and a huge part of the Superdome's history," Hoss said. "Given where we stand right now, an April Bayou Classic game would fall within our Superdome renovation. Would we be able to work around that? Those are questions we would have to explore."
Southern's schedule currently includes six games, but Banks said the team could fill one of the open dates with a seventh opponent from out of conference.
"As a of right now, we are exploring all options," Banks said. "Everything is on the table. Even a neutral site. That's something we are exploring. I can't really give you a definite answer, but we have a chance to play another opponent on the other side of our division if those opponents are free. The problem is everybody is jockeying for a home contest, so you might have to settle for a neutral site."
The Jaguars start the season Feb. 27 on the road at Alabama State. Their home opener is March 6 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The other three games on the schedule are: at Texas Southern (March 20), home vs. Alcorn State (March 27) and at Prairie View (April 10).
One team missing from Southern's schedule is Jackson State, a game that typically draws one of the largest SWAC crowds.
"I'll definitely have mixed emotions about that and look forward to having discussions about that," Banks said. "I don't know if it makes sense for us to get it on there at this particular time. But that's definitely a conversation."
Southern has three weeks on the schedule without games. March 13 is listed as a bye week, while April 3 and April 24 are listed as open dates. The SWAC championship game is scheduled for May 1.
The Bayou Classic is traditionally the final game of the SWAC's regular-season schedule. This year, it is one of five games slated for April 17. Two more rivalry games (Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M and Jackson State vs. Alcorn) are also among the games set for April 17.
Banks also said he hasn't determined which date will be Southern's homecoming.
"We just released the schedule, so we are trying to figure it out," Banks said. "The game we try to add might be that, but we are still trying to work through a couple things."
Southern finished 8-5 last season, winning the SWAC's West Division title before losing to Alcorn in the conference championship game. When the season resumes, it will have been 14 months since the Jaguars last played a game. But Banks hopes things are back to normal when Southern returns to the field.
"We moved the season back to expect fans," Banks said. "Hopefully we have some solutions to coronavirus. If we do, I expect to fill the stadium up."
Southern football schedule
Feb. 27 - at Alabama State
March 6 - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
March 13 - Bye
March 20 - at Texas Southern
March 27 - Alcorn
April 3 - Open
April 10 - at Prairie View
April 17 - Grambling (Bayou Classic)
April 24 - Open
May 1 - SWAC championship game