(Stats Perform) - The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference suspended its spring football season on Thursday after falling below the requisite number of schools willing to play during the the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MEAC, one of the two Division I conferences comprised of historically black colleges and universities, was scheduled to kick off a conference-only schedule - for its 50th anniversary season - on Feb. 20, but this week the number of interested schools dropped to three, which is below the 50 percent required by conference policy.
Four of the nine programs - Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, Norfolk State and North Carolina Central - previously opted out of playing this spring. Following a conference athletic directors meeting on Wednesday, Morgan State and North Carolina A&T also decided to stay on the sideline.
The MEAC said Delaware State, Howard and South Carolina State remain interested in playing games, which would be considered nonconference. But a casualty in the MEAC scenario is its first conference championship game that was planned for April 17.
"While it is tremendously disappointing to suspend the spring 2021 football season, it is the right decision with regards to the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans," MEAC commissioner Dennis E. Thomas said. "As I have stated since the beginning of the pandemic, health and safety will continue to be at the forefront of every decision. We support those institutions who will continue to play."
The MEAC joined the Ivy League on the FCS level with not having a spring season. Eleven other conferences have plans for a spring schedule.
When the MEAC returns to action, it will be down to six football members. On July 1, Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M will join the Southwestern Athletic Conference - the other D-I conference comprised of HBCUs - while three-time defending champ North Carolina A&T will become a Big South Conference member.