Update: Alcorn made it official on Tuesday by formally announcing that it will opt-out of its 2021 spring football schedule.
“Due to concerns and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming spring football season, we have determined opting out is our best course of action,” said Derek Horne, the school’s athletic director, in a statement. “This is indeed a difficult decision, and I’m especially mindful this will be disappointing news to our student-athletes, along with our dedicated fans and supporters.
“The football program is our largest sport and involves over half our student-athletes on campus, and a decision of this magnitude is also made with the best interests of the community in mind,” added Horne. “We looked forward to defending our conference title; however, in these unprecedented times, the safety of the players, coaches, staff, and fans is our top priority.”
Head coach Fred McNair said the group will prepare to play in the fall.
“Instead of preparing for spring competition, the program will move forward with traditional spring practice to prepare for fall play,” said McNair. “With ongoing health and safety protocols in place, the team will continue with monitored conditioning, strength training, and practices.”
Previous reporting on Alcorn State’s decision appears below.
Alcorn State, the reigning SWAC champions, will not defend its title after a report indicated the football program will opt out of the 2021 spring season because of coronavirus issues.
On Tuesday night, Football Scoop reported that Alcorn State had been in “discussions for several days” on not participating in the spring amid concerns with COVID-19.
“Amidst concerns for the virus, as well as the rural nature of the traditional HBCU school in Lorman, Mississippi, players and school leaders in recent days worked together to solidify their intention to have Alcorn “opt-out” of the never-before-seen spring campaign,” the website reported.
Alcorn is the first school from the SWAC to opt-out and the fourth FCS HBCU to forgo a shortened spring campaign. Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central — all of the MEAC — decided to prepare to play a full fall schedule.
Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said during SWAC Media Day that the conference anticipated disruptions at points during the shortened spring season, but would be prepared to make adjustments as needed.
“We do anticipate some stoppages within football in the game we have a contingency plan to do so,” said McClelland. “The good thing is we’re not participating in the playoffs. We are participating only in the (SWAC) championship game so it gives us greater flexibility to be able to make that adjustment as far as stoppages are concerned.
“I would just reiterate what we said before, COVID-19 is going to dictate what we do and how we do it. We’re going to follow the advisement of our medical advisory committee and the boots on the ground.”
When asked about the challenges of attempting to get his players and staff ready for a season with only weeks before games officially begin, Alcorn State head coach Fred McNair described the situation as delicate.
“As coaches, you’re really not comfortable,” he said. “It is a touchy situation for me as a coach because I am about the young men that we mentor and about their well-being. With COVID-19 and social distancing, there is a lot of concern.”