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Morgan State will not play spring football in 2021 as MEAC suspends season due to COVID-19 risks

Morgan State will not play a spring football season in 2021 after the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference announced Thursday that is suspending the season because of concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a news release, the MEAC said that six of the conference’s nine football programs opted out of the spring season, and conference policy states that if 50% or more institutions cannot participate, the championship for that sport will be suspended.

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The conference said it will allow individual member institutions to decide whether to play. At this point, Delaware State, Howard and South Carolina State have expressed an intent to do so.

Teams were set to begin play Feb. 20 and conclude April 17 with the inaugural MEAC championship game.

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“While it was a difficult decision, we ultimately believe it is the right one for our member institutions and their student-athletes, coaches, staff, and fans,” MEAC commissioner Dennis E. Thomas said.

Morgan State planned to play a four-game schedule with limited travel, beginning Feb. 20 against Delaware State at Hughes Stadium. A road game against the Hornets and home and away contests against Howard were also scheduled.

“Our decision is centered on the health and safety concerns for our student-athletes and advice of our medical professionals,” Morgan State athletic director Dr. Edward Scott said in a news release.

“Our focus remains dedicated to making the best decisions for Morgan Athletics based on the available information and the guidance of our medical professionals as we continue to navigate this global pandemic. While this decision is disappointing, we are committed to supporting our football student-athletes as they prepare for the upcoming fall 2021 season.”

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According to Scott, Morgan State had “a small cluster” of positive COVID-19 cases a few weeks ago. Several players who were positive and other close contacts were in the process of quarantining. Players who were quarantined missed roughly 10 to 20 days of training, depending on the severity of the infection.

Scott mentioned that getting players in shape to play after contracting the virus was a major cause of concern for the spring season. The other issue became travel concerns with the “geographical footprint of the MEAC,” which is home to teams in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.

Scott said he is looking forward to playing full schedule during the fall season and the priority for the program is to “keep its players safe.”

“If the schedule started on Feb. 20 as planned, Morgan would not be able to play its first football game because we wouldn’t even have 50 players healthy and cleared to be eligible,” Scott said. “Some of our decision-making didn’t even get that far because of what we’re dealing with now. We think we have a much better chance in the fall of playing football against other institutions and doing it safely because of protocols, but mainly due to the vaccine.”

Morgan State will move forward with a traditional spring practice campaign in March to prepare for the 2021 season. Members of the team will remain enrolled in their respective classes as full-time students, either virtually or in-person. Players will also retain access to facilities and support services in accordance with NCAA rules.

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