Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC
By Hal Lamar
A WORD TO HBCU SCHOOLS-CLOSE YOUR BOOKS ON 2020 FOOTBALL
The decision of Morehouse College President David Thomas to mothball the school’s 2020 football and cross-country season has generated a few headlines. This week's edition of Sports Illustrated has devoted considerable space (more than most of these so called major sports organs have managed to ever do for us) to the school and Thomas, who is beginning his third year at the college and his second football season, has received some plaudits for his effort. His associate within the AU Center, Dr George French, himself a fairly recent addition in Atlanta as president Clark-Atlanta University, applauded his colleague, calling it “courageous”, according to the SI story. French hasn’t decided on the fate of CAU’s fall/winter sports program but actually has a bigger fish to fry. He is expected to confer with the other 10 football playing colleges of the 107 year old Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) to gauge their thinking on scratching the entire 2020 season.
According to the SI article, which should be on the street as you read this article, it has met with mixed reviews. This state of ours is among the 30-odd others with COVID cases on the upswing. Remember too, it was Governor Brian Kemp , who first started relaxing stay-at-home orders and regs which too much of the populace interpreted as an “all clear” to run amuck….. and without masks. I saw evidence of that during my own sojourn with family to the north Georgia city of Helen. Few of the thousands who descended upon the tourist attraction nearly a fortnight ago were wearing masks and even fewer were paying any attention to distancing restrictions.
OUTSIDE THE ATL: Meanwhile, the three other historical black college sports conferences (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) , Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) are mulling their decisions about football 2020. I have reached out to Curtis Hurst, who follows activities in the SWAC as this column’s “eyes and ears” in the SWAC and he emailed me some info which might affect the future of play among at least two conference schools : “Texas city and county leaders have asked Governor Greg Abbott for authority to implement local stay-at-home orders…This will have an impact on the Houston area, specifically Texas Southern and Prairie View”.……..
The CIAA, a 100-plus year old conference of 12 football playing colleges spread out in four states (Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina) had not made a decision at deadline time over what it intends to do about 2020. SI quoted CIAA commissioner Jacque McWilliams saying a decision will have to be made by the conference’s governing board but didn’t rule out a late start or outright tanking of the season. North Carolina is among the states that have seen a sudden spiking of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Seven of the conferences 12 member colleges are located in the so called Tar Heel state….
For the MEAC, meanwhile, “baby” of the four conferences which cranked up in 1970, COVID-19 is yet another headache facing their eight remaining schools (six for football). The 51 year old conference has seen four of its institutions,(Hampton, North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman Universities bolt to other conferences. Talk swirled that the conference was all but dead. But Eric Moore, owner and webmaster of the black college website onnidan.com, based in North Carolina(and my boss , told this writer that “ It may be on life-support, but it’s not dead yet.” Meanwhile, another colleague of mine, Donal Ware, creator of the From The Press Box to Press Row website (boxtorow.com), concurs that the “Me-Ac” is in trouble and wonders, as does this writer, how a conference which boasted12 strong institutions, has lost four since 2017. “I think that if the MEAC can pull other schools into the fold like say, Virginia State or maybe Bowie State, it would enhance their position,” he told me in a phone interview. “But can you persuade them to move up from Division II. Are they willing to move?”. I remember several years ago, the SWAC attempted to lure at least two SIAC member schools, Clark-AU and Morris Brown into the conference. In fact, the latter school had already hatched plans to move toward joining Division I. CAU didn’t buy in and Morris Brown wound up losing their accreditation. But it looks like the real winner in this game off musical chairs is the SWAC, which added two more colleges to its roster of 10. This year, the conference is celebrating its 100th birthday and getting two historic colleges like FAMU and Bethune into the fold without any recruiting or cajoling represents a heck of a birthday gift.
FAMU and BCU are scheduled to join the conference next year. But this year, the big headache facing Commissioner Charles McClelland is the effect of COVID and its sudden spikes in 37 states. Several conference schools are located in those states and , according to the SI story, the conference has a self-imposed deadline of October 17 to start the season or, says Dr McClelland, field a spring season , a polite way of suggesting the 2020 season will be sandbagged.
MY CONCLUSION: Seems a contest has emerged between college football at all levels vs. COVID-19. So far, it seems to be winning with no small amount of support from Kemp, 45, his vice president and others. It seems to this writer that in the best interest of the student-athletes who are primarily in college to get an education first, the 51 HBCUs need to close the books on 2020, pray to their creator amd follow suit with Morehouse. In fact, I think President Thomas supplied the last words on this issue when he said this to SI .“ it doesn’t make sense to me to have a football season this year-for any school-with the virus rates going up.”
Got an item? Contact Hal -> hallamar at comcast.net