Florida A&M is the latest MEAC school to announce it has opted out of spring football in 2021 due to coronavirus concerns.
“Florida A&M Athletics’ decision to opt-out and forgo the 2021 spring football, indoor track and field and volleyball season was made with the health and safety of our student-athletes is our top priority. This was a collective decision with our coaches and staff, given the varying circumstances that COVID-19 has created for our program,” said Kortne Gosha, Florida A&M athletics director said in a statement Wednesday. “We are certainly disappointed that some of our student-athletes will not be able to compete this year; however, we will shift our focus to achieving our academic priorities while planning a safe return to play in fall 2021, our inaugural season in the Southwest Athletic Conference.”
The university initially planned to have truncated schedules during the spring season with limited travel. However, school officials cited fears of further spreading of the virus for student-athletes, coaches, and fans.
As of Wednesday, Florida has accumulated 858,000 COVID-19 cases and 17,299 deaths since the pandemic was declared in March. Leon County, which encompasses FAMU, has totaled 13,219 infections and 120 deaths, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The 2020-21 season was supposed to Florida A&M’s last season in the MEAC after a 40-year in the league. In June, the university announced that it would join the SWAC for the 2021-22 campaign.
The Rattlers athletic program now joins Bethune-Cookman University — also slated to join the SWAC next year — as the only MEAC schools that will not participate in football.
Florida A&M makes its decision at a time when coronavirus has significantly disrupted football at the FBS level this week alone. As many as five Top 25 games being wiped out, including contests involving the No. 1, No.3 and No. 5 ranked teams in the country. So far this season, 55 FBS games have either been canceled or postponed because of COVID-19 issues.
MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas explained that all schools within the league have until Nov. 16 to forgo spring sports.