Through the first few weeks of the spring regular season, just five Division I HBCU football games have been played.
Others have been postponed or canceled because of either winter storms that battered much of the country or COVID-19 issues within programs.
There isn’t a large enough sample size yet to determine whether the great experiment that is is actually fruitful.
But Alabama State head coach Donald Hill-Eley explained the sport being showcased in February, March and April can be an attractive commodity for football-starved fans who otherwise would have no other outlet to enjoy games when the traditional fall season has concluded.
Also read: ‘We’re extremely excited:’ SWAC releases 2021 ESPN spring football television schedule
“For a lot of our fans, you have golf and baseball and all these things going, but it kind of gives you that spring setting that I guess the country has been trying to find for years,” said Hill-Eley when asked about the possibility of football being a permanent spring sport during the SWAC coaches press conference on Monday.
During SWAC Media Days in January, league commissioner Charles McClelland said its current deal with ESPN — one that features 16 conference contests on ESPN3 and ESPNU in 2021 — would only help the conference enhance its brand even further without competition from the FBS or NFL.
“We understand our value and we understand our worth,” McClelland said then. “We’re going to start to demand that our value and our worth be respected and entities understand that.”
Hill-Eley, whose team will be featured in four nationally-televised games in the shortened six-game spring schedule, said the conference’s ESPN agreement fills in the gap during what he described as a “dead period” in the sports calendar and expands the possibility for additional revenue opportunities if the pandemic is able to be controlled.
“The pluses of the revenue streams and everything that can come in spring football is definitely a win, and I think a lot of commissioners and a lot of folks will probably look at that to see how you can make that happen,” he said. “But the opportunities and the revenues that can be generated in the spring will probably never be matched in the fall.”