SWAC Cancels Fall Sports; Magic City Classic Postponed Until Spring
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
By Corryn Carter, Our 360 Staff Writer
Birmingham, Ala. - The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) voted unanimously to postpone sports for the fall 2020 season. America’s premier HBCU sports conference made the decision after a nationwide spike in COVID-19 infections.
“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 statement read.
In the spring, football teams will compete in a seven-game season comprised of six conference games and one non-conference game. This includes an eight-week practice period that will commence in January 2021. The postponement also affects women’s soccer, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country. SWAC officials maintained that the situation may still change depending on the status of a vaccine, and if the pandemic is under control by early next year. Additionally, the 85th annual Magic City Classic will be played in Birmingham this spring. The classic, which is the largest historically black college and university game in the country, is a meeting between rival teams, Alabama State University (ASU) and Alabama A&M University. The postponement is certain to not only affect intense rivalries between Alabama A&M and ASU, but also the schedules of Auburn, UAB, Troy and other teams who pay significant sums to play SWAC members. Auburn was set to meet Alcorn State on September 5, while UAB and Mississippi State were both set to square off with Alabama A&M. While other conferences have also postponed fall sports, including the Ivy League, MEAC and CAA, SWAC appears to have the most specific plan in place. "We wanted our fans to have something to look forward to," SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland said. "We wanted our student-athletes to have something to look forward to, and we feel like this is a sustainable plan that will allow us to be able to get it done, and get it done from a realistic standpoint."
McClelland expressed disappointment about the temporary postponement, but emphasized the importance of maintaining the health and safety of SWAC student-athletes and fans. “The SWAC is the premiere Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conference, and we want to make sure we take all constituents into account. We believe that this is the best thing for everyone,” said McClelland said about the decision. “The safety and welfare of our student-athletes are our number one priority.”
ESPN reports that SWAC has lead all FCS conferences in attendance for 42 of the past 43 seasons. As for the financial implications of the season’s postponement, McClelland says it is too early to tell. The lack of the Magic City Classic alone will cost the city of Birmingham upwards of $20 million in lost economic impact, according to the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Magic City Classic is a staple for many Alabama A&M and ASU alumni who spend days in Birmingham with parades, concerts, and tailgating, culminating in the football game and Battle of the Bands at Legion Field. Dr. Taqua Lewis told WBRC that “the Magic City Classic is the equivalency to the Iron Bowl. If people don’t get it, that’s our Iron Bowl.”
A decision on what will become of the SEC football season is expected by the end of next week.