MEAC decision abruptly ends football season for FAMU

Special to the Outlook

As much as FAMU athletic director Kortne Gosha might have been prepared for any disruption that COVID-19 could cause, he found himself facing the difficult task of having to tell student-athletes that their fall season was over.

Gosha found himself in that position after the Council of Presidents and Chancellors of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference announces that the league will suspend all sports competition, championship and non-championship segments, for the 2020 fall season.

A decision is yet to be made on whether fall sports schedules will be moved to the 2021 spring semester, the conference said in a press release. Suspension of the fall schedule means the Rattlers will not be playing a football season.

It also marks the end of the football program in the MEAC, as Gosha announced last month that the program is moving to the SWAC. Earlier on the same day that the MEAC’s announcement last Thursday, Gosha also said that FAMU won’t play in a game that was intended to be the revival of the Orange Blossom Classic on Sept. 6 in Miami.

“The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Florida A&M University have elected to suspend all fall sports due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic,” Gosha said, reaction to the MEAC’s decision. “While we are disappointed by the fact that we will not be competing this fall, we do believe this is in the best interest for our student-athletes and our institution.” 

He asked fans and supporters to be patient while the program adjusts to the changes.

Cancellation of fall sports means FAMU will not play a homecoming game this season.
Photo by FAMU athletics

“Please understand that this decision was not taken lightly,” he said. “I am extremely confident that we will continue to work through these challenging times together.”

 The university also said it’s committed to exploring creative approaches and alternatives to provide future competitive experiences and opportunities for the student-athletes.

 In its announcement, the MEAC said it currently plans to proceed with winter sports competitions as scheduled, unless health and medical professionals advise otherwise. 

The Council of Presidents and Chancellors took this action out of a concern for the safety as well as the physical and mental health of student-athletes, coaches, administrators, support staff, faculty and fans, the conference said.  In part, the conference said it made the move because of the rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases along the eastern seaboard. It also pointed to data that suggested African Americans and other minority communities are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. 

The MEAC also said it’s committed to ensuring that the correct measures are in place to reduce exposure to the virus.

 “The health and safety of our student-athletes continue to be our number one priority. We have made the decision to suspend all sports competitions after careful review of the current conditions and consideration of the potential exposure that regular travel to competitions may cause and ongoing extensive physical contact,” said Howard University President and Chair of MEAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. “While our competitions have been suspended, each member institution will plan ongoing engagement of all student-athletes to ensure optimization of their physical and mental well-being as they continue their matriculation.”

  MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas said he knows the decision is a difficult one, but it had to be made.

“Obviously this is an arduous decision because everyone wants to have a fall season for student-athletes, fans and others,” Thomas said. “Part of our responsibility is to ensure the mental and physical health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff is paramount. It is imperative that everyone recognize that is our first and foremost responsibility.”

 The league said its member will continue the re-socialization process for student-athletes, including mental and physical health counseling, strength and conditioning protocol and compliance with all COVID-19 safety requirements.