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MEAC Cancels All Sports For Fall Season, Sidelining FAMU Teams

Florida A M UCF Football
Gary McCullough/AP
FR171182 AP
Florida A&M offensive lineman Andre Regis (54) during an NCAA football game against Central Florida on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, or MEAC, announced Thursday it is suspending all sports for the Fall season because of COVID-19. Florida A&M University is one of the 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities that make up the MEAC, meaning the school’s student athletes in sports like football won’t be playing this season.

The MEAC’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors says “A decision is yet to be made on whether fall sports schedules will be moved to the 2021 spring semester,” but as of now it is planning on going forward with winter sports.

The Council went on to say it took action with the physical and mental health of its student athletes in mind:

“The rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases along the eastern seaboard heavily influenced the council’s decision as the data suggests that the African American and other minority communities are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” conference leadership wrote in a statement.

The conference-wide suspension of sports comes after nine FAMU student athletes were confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19. The Rattlers’ athletic director, Kortne Gosha, issued a statement about the season’s cancellation:

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

Willie Simmons, the Rattlers' head football coach, also weighed in Thursday: “It’s shocking news to all of us. Right now, my initial thoughts are to reach out to my team and communicate with them, make sure they are in a place that they could move forward," Simmons said. "A lot of individuals will be affected by this decision. Their safety and wellbeing is paramount.”

University president Larry Robinson says he agrees with the MEAC's decision.

“The pageantry of fall sports, especially football, is a key part of the Florida A&M University experience," Robinson said. "However, given the current trends with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the MEAC's suspension of fall sports is the right thing to do.”

Dr. Wayne Fredrick, president of Howard University and a member of the MEAC Council, says programs for athletes like strength and conditioning protocols can continue.

“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.”

The MEAC’s move makes it the first Division I conference in the NCAA to cancel its fall sports season.

Cancellation of the fall season is another blow to the FAMU Athletics Department, which announced last year it was cutting two programs, men’s cross country and tennis teams, for 2020. The teams were suspended in an attempt to mitigate revenue shortfalls.