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MEAC cancels all its 2020 fall sports

A football game last year between Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) members North Carolina Central and Florida A&M. The conference said all its fall sports will be canceled this year due to Covid-19. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) has become the third Division I college sports conference to cancel its entire fall sports calendar, including football, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, further amplifying the pressure mounting around this segment of the industry.

Following the lead of the Ivy League  and Patriot League, the MEAC similarly said the accelerating spread of the virus made it impossible for the conference to safely stage its fall sports this year.

“Obviously this is an arduous decision because everyone wants to have a fall season for student-athletes, fans, and others,” said Dennis Thomas, MEAC commissioner. “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 MEAC is comprised of 11 historically black institutions along the US Atlantic coastline, and the conference was to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. The spread of Covid-19 in the US to date has disproportionately impacted African-American populations, making the MEAC’s move particularly important.

“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 Wayne Frederick, Howard University president and chair of the MEAC’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors. 

The conference has yet to rule on whether its fall sports schedules will be moved to the spring 2021 semester. The MEAC’s winter sports are still slated to proceed as scheduled, “unless health and medical professionals advise otherwise,” the conference said. 

The move also comes as the MEAC’s membership is approaching a period of change. Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman both said recently they will leave the MEAC and join the Southwestern Athletic Conference next year. MEAC-power North Carolina A&T has similarly announced it will be moving to the Big South in 2021.