CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference announced on Thursday that the league is suspending all sports competition, championship and non-championship segments for the 2020 fall season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move means South Carolina State won’t be playing football this season and makes the MEAC the first Division 1 scholarship conference to call off the fall season.
The MEAC said they have not decided if the fall sports will be moved to the spring semester of 2021 as of yet.
“As President of a MEAC affiliated institution, I support the Council’s decision,” said SC State University president James E. Clark. “I, along with higher ed leaders across this country are having to make very tough decisions about how to navigate this pandemic and still provide a top-notch college experience for our students. This decision aligns with our commitment to keep our campus community safe.”
“The health and safety of our student-athletes continue to be our number one priority. We have made the decision to suspend all sports competitions after careful review of the current conditions and consideration of the potential exposure that regular travel to competitions may cause and ongoing extensive physical contact,” said Howard University President and Chair of MEAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. “While our competitions have been suspended, each member institution will plan ongoing engagement of all student-athletes to ensure optimization of their physical and mental well-being as they continue their matriculation.”
“Obviously this is an arduous decision because everyone wants to have a fall season for student-athletes, fans and others,” said MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas. “Part of our responsibility is to ensure the mental and physical health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff is paramount. It is imperative that everyone recognize that is our first and foremost responsibility.”
“Because our student-athletes and coaches make extraordinary contributions to our entire campus and Orangeburg community, this is an extremely heartbreaking decision.” SC State Director of Athletics Stacy Danley said in a statement. “However, I support the decision because I know that it is the right call based on the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus,”
Danley noted, “Our medical staff worked diligently to create an extensive health and safety return to campus plan for voluntary workouts. However, while we were prepared as an institution to execute that plan, I want to assure everyone associated with our University that this decision was made with the health and safety of our students, coaches, faculty, staff, and the community in mind.”
According to a release from the conference, the Council of Presidents and Chancellors took this action out of a concern for the safety as well as the physical and mental health of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, support staff, faculty and fans. The rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases along the eastern seaboard heavily influenced the council’s decision as the data suggests that the African American and other minority communities are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
The MEAC says they currently plan to proceed with winter sports competitions as scheduled, unless health and medical professionals advise otherwise.