HBCU football, a tradition many current students and alumni alike enjoy and look forward to every year, like all other aspects of common life, have been up for speculation due to the lack of information available on the current pandemic we face.
From the rivalries to homecoming the anticipation can be felt from all sides, but none more than the college athlete. Considering the state of our community.
Unfortunately fall 2020 does not include any contact sports for the Southwestern Athletic Conference, or SWAC, postponing the football season until the spring semester.
With this step back there have been both protocol changes and exciting new changes for the season to come.
Nicholas Hunter, a junior wide receiver, said the team has been preparing for the upcoming spring season.
Before the start of the academic year the entire nation was not exactly sure how sports and extracurricular activities that involve large group gatherings would be handled or if they would come back in the foreseeable future at all.
The NCAA often enforces the protocols set for player health and safety while also setting regulations for the programs as far as when institutionally mandated practices may resume and at what capacity.
While some football conferences chose to maintain a regular or an adapted fall schedule the SWAC opted for a spring schedule.
Similar to summer workouts and dates set for when a university may put players in pads for specific levels of contact, during the beginning of the fall semester all formal practices were prohibited by mandate of the SWAC.
Hunter said teammates were still putting in the effort to stay in shape despite the challenges.
“Usually when we worked out it was just calling each other up and we still do that,” Hunter said. “We choose to put work in at open fields.”
Voluntary institutional-guided practices have now resumed.
“It’s still not mandatory, if [a player] doesn’t feel comfortable he doesn’t have to come,” Hunter said. “But it’s still new ways that we’re learning how to do things, and we were all tested before we resumed work.”
The SWAC also made some changes that have built excitement for the upcoming season.
A realignment for the conference brought big name schools such as Florida A&M to the SWAC eastern conference, which creates a matchup with Grambling that many fans of HBCU football cannot wait to see.
Another change was Jackson State University hiring big name head coach Deion Sanders.
“It don’t matter, they can go get who they want,” Hunter said. “I don’t see anybody taking over what we built, and I can’t wait until the fall when we can show them boys that we are still the best in the conference.”