COVID-19 has changed the college sports landscape. McNeese fall athletes now must prepare to play in the spring.
In fact, recent moves by the conferences to cancel the fall sports season is making waves through all of Division I.
“The board of governors also established if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert on Twitter. “We can’t in any Division I NCAA championship sport now— which is everything other than FBS football that goes on in the fall. Sadly, tragically, that’s going to be the case this fall, full stop.”
Emmert pointed out, with every FCS conference expected to opt-out of fall sports, there will be no championships in 2020. Each of the title games will move to the spring.
That change in date will affect everything from the location of the title games to the number of teams allowed into the playoffs.
“Don’t expect a 24-team bracket like we normally have [in football],” said Southland Conference Commissioner Tom Burnett. “I think what we are learning with our NCAA championships, and this probably shouldn’t surprise anyone; everything they do to try and provide the championship experiences is going to become more expensive.”
Added costs extend to the universities that must now conform to new health guidelines if they hope to play a non-conference schedule this fall. The Southland is allowing teams to do just that.
However, the majority of league schools, including McNeese, opted out of playing football this fall. Interim Athletics Director Heath Schroyer believes it’s hypocritical to split up the season.
“I personally think that a split-season, trying to play some games in the fall and some games in the spring— I just don’t understand it. If our league has determined that it is not safe for our student-athletes to play league games in the fall. Then I have no idea how other teams in our league want to try to schedule each other, let alone go get on planes and play other people,” admitted Schroyer. “I just don’t personally think that it’s a great look.”
While schools like Houston Baptist, Lamar, Central Arkansas and Abilene Christian have expressed interest to play what few games they can this fall, along with a spring season, conference member Stephen F. Austin has another plan.
“We have no desire to play in the spring. I don’t think you’ll see many teams at all play in the spring. There are no data points on the safety of the kids, and that’s who comes first,” said SFA head football coach Colby Carthel. “I don’t think it makes much sense to play 22 to 23 games in a nine-month calendar. We’re going to look to play a full schedule and try to get 11 games on the docket this fall.”
The Pokes meanwhile will attempt a spring schedule despite losing out on a $200K paycheck from the UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns next month. But Schroyer said it was never about the cost.
“It was challenging to try and get the number of tests that we needed to. But at the end of the day, we did get that problem solved. The testing wasn’t the final deterrent, it was the safety and wellbeing of our athletes.”
So the Pokes will look ahead to 2021 for all fall sports. While the dates aren't set in stone, Schroyer expects some clarity soon.
“We’re supposed to have something by the end of the month. That’s where they are really trying to aim for is to give us some answers by the end of August, so we can start planning when the camp will start, when preseason practice will start and what the holidays look like,” said Schroyer. “It’s a very fluid time right now in athletics.”