Plans underway for HBCU football in the spring

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BY ANDREAS BUTLER
FLORIDA COURIER

For fans hoping to attend a Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) and Florida A&M University (FAMU) game in the coming months, it’s still a possibility.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) announced on Aug. 20 its plans to have fall sports compete in the spring, including football.

“As has been the case since this pandemic started in March, the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, university staff and fans are paramount,” said MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas.

“I want to thank both the Forecasting Committee and the Health and Medical Advisory Group for their tireless efforts in formulating this plan.”

Feb. 27 start date

Fall sports include football, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s crosscountry and women’s soccer.

MEAC football will consist of six conference games with teams split into divisions, according to geography, and games played Feb. 27 through April 24.

The Northern Divisions will feature Howard, Morgan State, Delaware State and Norfolk State while the Southern Division will have B-CU, FAMU, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central and South Carolina State.

Non-football members Coppin State and Maryland Eastern Shore also are in the Northern Division.

Safety first

A football championship game featurCing division champs is also proposed.

Both Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M are hopeful but still stress caution.

“The rescheduling of fall sports in the MEAC and NCAA was necessary due to safety concerns and in the best interest of student athletes. At B-CU, we can clearly recognize this pandemic has disproportionately impacted our core demographic and communities which our institutions are located,’’ said Lynn Thompson, B-CU’s vice president of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“Schools like B-CU are anchors in our communities. We are hopeful to restart our athletic association in the winter and spring. We will do so only if conditions are safe and allowable under local, state, federal and institutional guidelines.

FAMU Athletics Director Kortne Gosha told the Tallahassee Democrat last month: “We all have an appetite to play football. A lot has to happen. Our main priority is the health and safety of our student athletes.”

Final MEAC season

This is also the final year in the MEAC for the Rattlers and Wildcats. Both are moving to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) in July 2021.

The MEAC’s move follows suit with its sister and rival conference – SWAC, which announced back in July that it would attempt to hold fall sports in the spring.

The SWAC will play a six-game conference schedule with four games against division opponents and two against non-division opponents. Schools have an option to play one non-conference game.

Edward Waters College, the only other HBCU in Florida with a football program, plays at the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association (NAIA) level. They compete in the Gulf Coast Athletic Association and is a football independent.

EWC Athletic Director Paul Bryant told News-4Jax WJXT in July that the school planned to play football this fall.

When Division II HBCU conference – the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAC) – cancelled fall sports, including football, it left EWC scrambling for games. The Tigers were to play six SIAC schools.

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