Among the first spring COVID-19 coronavirus cancellations of a football season has arrived.
Southwestern Athletic Conference powerhouse Alcorn State, hardly the only school in that league battling the spread of the pandemic virus that has plagued the globe since the earliest days of 2020 as Deion Sanders' Jackson State program also has dealt with coronavirus issues in recent days and weeks, is opting out of its 2021 season, sources confirmed to FootballScoop.
The Braves, defending conference champions and in a tear of six-straight divisional titles, the last four under head coach Fred McNair, have been in discussions for several days on punting their spring season. 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.
McNair, a multiple coach of the year recipient who also starred for the Braves as a player in the 1990s and also logged time professionally, visited last month with FootballScoop. McNair praised his players' efforts, but the renowned players'-first coach also has made clear throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that he placed his players' and coaches' health and safety above all competitive elements.
“We've been very quiet down here,” McNair told FootballScoop, “and we're trying to get our guys ready for the spring and ready to battle in the spring and keep our guys healthy down here. So, we've got a challenge as a coaching staff to do those things and making sure our guys are doing what they're supposed to do.”
A visionary leader for the Alcorn program and a longtime ambassador for the school even prior to his days coaching at his alma mater, McNair had wanted this spring season as an opportunity for the entire SWAC to showcase its quality brand of football. McNair noted the league had entered preliminary discussions with ESPN about televising additional contests in the spring season.
“That's something that's always been positive for us, is potentially being able to spring football, as far as the HBCUs, because the Power-5s and all that, they have played,” McNair told FootballScoop. “So it's a chance to focus more on the HBCUs and our program here at Alcorn. I talked to our conference commissioner the other day, and ESPN is really trying to back us on some games. It may not be a whole bunch of them, but even if it's just two or three games, if we can get those on the tube, that would be very good for us and our league.”
Alcorn State now is scheduled to open its 2021 fall campaign against the North Carolina Central Eagles on Sept. 5 in Atlanta.