College Football

SWAC is fifth FCS conference to cancel fall competition

By CRAIG HALEY

Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - The Southwestern Athletic Conference was set to celebrate its 100th anniversary this fall. Instead, its member schools will not have athletic competition.

Monday evening, the conference of 10 historically black colleges and universities became the fifth of 13 overall FCS conferences to cancel on the fall due to concerns about the COVID-19 global pandemic. The SWAC joined its rival HBCU conference, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, as well as the Ivy and Patriot leagues and CAA Football.

While the other conferences announced they will explore the possibility of playing fall sports in the spring semester should health conditions be deemed safe, the SWAC announced the plan of a seven-game football schedule beginning with an eight-week training period in January 2021. Each program would play six conference games (four divisional and two cross-divisional) with the option to play one nonconference game.

The SWAC's decision came after a virtual meeting of commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland and the school presidents and chancellors. In a statement, the conference said, "The continued increase of COVID-19 cases across many portions of the league's geographic footprint and southern regions of the country played a significant role in the council's decision, along with data that suggests African-American communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The SWAC shares in the disappointment that will undoubtedly be felt by student-athletes, fans and supporters impacted by the postponement of fall sports competition."

The SWAC has ranked No. 1 among FCS conferences in attendance for 42 of the past 43 seasons, including 15,266 fans per game last year. It is the only FCS conference that has a two-division setup and holds a championship game, although this year's winner would not have advanced to the Celebration Bowl, which was canceled last week after the MEAC opted against having a fall campaign.

Prairie View A&M is the lone remaining charter member of a conference that formed in 1920. Other SWAC members are Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Alcorn State (two-time defending football champ), Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Southern and Texas Southern. The conference will expand to 12 members next July with the addition of MEAC members Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M.

Updated July 20, 2020

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