On July 20, the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) announced it has postponed all of its sports leagues for the upcoming fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SWAC explained the decision in an online statement posted to their official website.
“The SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors felt this action was necessary out of growing concern for the health, safety and well-being both mentally and physically of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, team staff, campus faculty, fans and supporters,” the statement said.
The statement cites the increase of COVID-19 cases, specifically in the South, and the virus’s impact on African-American communities among the reasons for postponing the season.
This decision is the latest fall season postponement due to COVID-19. Recently, the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announced decisions to play conferences only in the fall, while the Ivy League postponed its fall season to the spring semester.
As the fall season approaches, SWAC’s decision presents a scheduling challenge for Southern Miss. The school’s football, cross country, soccer and volleyball programs are now unable to play against members of the SWAC, including many major universities.
In 2019, Southern Miss’ fall programs played against five universities in the SWAC. The football season began with a home-opener against Alcorn State University. The soccer team played at home versus Mississippi Valley State University and Jackson State University. The volleyball team played at home versus Alabama State University and went to the University of Arkansas to play at Pine Bluff.
While the majority of schedules for fall sports programs have not been released, the 2020 football season schedule was released in January. Before the SWAC’s postponement, the Southern Miss football team was scheduled to play a home game on Sep. 19 versus Jackson State University.
As Southern Miss attempts to rework schedules affected by SWAC’s postponement, other non-conference games for the school are also in question.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and conference athletic directors held a meeting on July 13 to discuss the upcoming season. The conference is expected to make a decision regarding possible postponement or cancellation by the end of July. “We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us,” Sankey said.
In 2019, Southern Miss fall sports teams played against three SEC universities. The soccer team played an away game at Auburn University while the football team played away games versus Mississippi State and the University of Alabama. The cross country team also traveled to Vanderbilt University to participate in the Commodore Classic.
SWAC’s decision and other conference’s decisions not only pose scheduling concerns, but could also have a negative financial impact on Southern Miss. The home opener versus Alcorn State last year brought in a season-high 31,076 spectators at The Rock. Southern Miss Football earned $3 million for the two SEC games played in 2019 and is expected to earn $1.85 million from the game scheduled against Auburn University.
Currently, Southern Miss is still planning on holding games during the fall semester. Director of Athletics Jerry McClain released an online statement responding to the SWAC’s decision.
“We have been in discussions with several programs and are working towards filling that date at The Rock with another game,” McClain said. “As we all know, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-changing, and we will continue to adjust accordingly.”