Due to poor academic progress rates, the SWAC announced last week that the Jackson State and Southern University football programs would not be eligible to complete for a spot in the conference’s championship game this year. Additionally, the Grambling and Southern University men’s basketball programs will not be eligible to compete in postseason competition.
On the surface, the ruling appears to be straightforward. No postseason play for J-State and SU football and no postseason play for GSU and SU men’s basketball. This seems pretty simple…right?
Over the years, we’ve come to learn that the SWAC doesn’t know how to keep it simple. The conference will always find a way to screw up even the most simple things. This recent ban against Grambling, Jackson State and Southern is no different and is grossly inconsistent.
In a recent (June 10) chat exchange I had with someone from the SWAC office on Twitter, it was confirmed that while the Grambling and Southern men’s basketball programs are banned from post season play, they are eligible to complete for a regular season title. In a follow up conversation with Tom Gailbrath, Assistant Commissioner for Communications, he too confirmed that both teams are eligible to play for regular season titles.
How is it that the men’s basketball programs of GSU and SU can compete for regular season titles, but the football teams of J-State and Southern can’t do the same? How is this fair to the players of all teams impacted by this decision?
The only way JSU and SU can complete for a regular season title is to be allowed to compete for a spot in the championship game which is the process that determines the SWAC’s REGULAR season champion. But that’s not possible now because the SWAC Council of President voted on a rule that eliminates J-State and SU from this year’s SCG. A ban that even the NCAA wouldn’t impose because it is a conference sanctioned event.
The SWAC took an already resolved situation and turned it into a mess of unintended consequences. There was no need to vote on a ban against Grambling, Jackson State or Southern. The NCAA had already done the dirty work by issuing postseason bans, scholarship reductions, and reducing practice times.
In its attempt at being cute and giving outsiders the perception that it is committed to doing the right thing for its student athletes…whatever that may be, the SWAC once again succeeded in creating the perception of a conference that just can’t get it right.
The SWAC must now address the issue of fairness to members of the SU football team. A team that will begin the season knowing that, while they can’t play for a REGULAR season title, some of their friends who are members of the men’s basketball team can despite being banned from the postseason.
Now that we know the Grambling and Southern men’s basketball teams are eligible for a regular season title, the SWAC needs to address what happens to the automatic NIT slot the conference gets if GSU or SU wins the regular season. The NCAA has banned the schools from playing in the post season…remember? That was part of the “dirty work” the NCAA took care of.
At this point there is only one of two things the SWAC can do to right a terrible wrong. Either make JSU and SU eligible to complete for a REGULAR season football title by allowing them a chance to complete in the SCG, or make the Grambling and Southern men’s basketball team ineligible to compete for a regular season title.
It would be foolish for the SWAC to ignore this and do nothing. And if a change is made, the SWAC will still look foolish for having to make the change. Some things are inevitable…especially for the SWAC. But all foolishness aside, this, if nothing else, is about fairness.
Can the SWAC be fair about this?