LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett emphasized the conference’s commitment to playing the 2020 football season in the fall. Burnett addressed many COVID-19 related issues during the Southland Conference Media Day on Wednesday. The announcement follows FCS conferences like the SWAC, Ivy League, MEAC and Patriot League that postponed all fall sports until the spring.
“To some degree, we’re going to have to be responsive to what other conferences do,” said Burnett, “but right now our intent is to motor forward and play the schedule as it currently lies.”
“We want our fans there. Our athletic directors, our presidents want to have full stadiums for whatever capacity by percentage they can have.”
“They will have to follow local guidance on what capacity they’ll be allowed. We are watching what our states say and local communities say and we are going to have to live with that,” said Burnett. “We will not have a conference standard that supersedes any of that.”
McNeese coach Frank Wilson commended Burnett and the Southland Conference on its firm stance to play football in the fall calling the plan, “bold.”
“I stand with our commissioner, I stand with our president. I think a key part of what you said is to do it safely. We are not reckless in our approach. We haven’t had in-person meetings yet and still do it by way of Zoom. We go above and beyond to secure our players’ safety,” Wilson said. “We live in this society and life is for living. We will do so with precaution. We are not going to lock ourselves in the closet and not move.”
The Southland conference’s first scheduled game is a non-conference matchup between Central Arkansas and Austin Peay on August 29.
“That will be followed by what we think will be a full slate of games on Labor Day weekend,” said Burnett. “We anticipate our football camps opening soon with our focus on student-athletes beginning preseason practices as they normally do.”
NCAA Division I football programs are allowed up to an hour of walk-through practice beginning Friday, July 24. Players can use a football for the walk-throughs, however, they won’t be allowed to wear helmets or pads. Teams can hold the normal, four-week preseason camp starting August 7.
Wilson said his staff already has a plan to make best use of the protocol and restrictions.
“We are going to split our team up into two different locker rooms so we are not maximizing the space in one area. We’ll do as much in everything that is recommended to us by the protocol of our medical task force and the CDC. I think if we are able to do that and we can play a season, I’d love to,” said Wilson. “For some of these young men, it’s their senior year and I don’t want them to lose that and they don’t want to lose that. If it can be prevented, we’d like to play it.”