Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders. Photo AP.

For most in college football, the spring is an opportunity for additional practices in preparation for the upcoming fall season.

For the SWAC, it’s time to compete for real.

In an unprecedented move made necessary by the spread of COVID-19, the SWAC will kickoff its 2020 fall season this spring, beginning this weekend. SWAC East Division favorites Southern and Alabama State will officially get the spring schedule going on Friday, while most of the remaining league teams will kickoff their season on Saturday.

This spring schedule should be memorable for many reasons, not just the timing. We will have the much anticipated and much hyped SWAC coaching debut of Deion “Prime Time” Sanders at Jackson State. Alcorn State, the perennial SWAC powerhouse program, has opted out of playing this spring which opens up the possibilities for the likes of Southern, Prairie View, Alabama A&M and Alabama State.

The Defender has put together a SWAC primer to be your reference guide throughout the season. Also, for a closer look at Prairie View and Texas Southern this spring, check out DefenderNetwork.com on Friday.

HOW THIS SPRING WILL WORK

Most SWAC teams will play an abbreviated, six-game league-only schedule this spring. The NCAA has granted all student-athletes who participated this academic year an extra year of eligibility.

There will be a SWAC Championship Game on May 1. The Celebration Bowl that pits the SWAC and MEAC champions for the Black National College Championship will not be played this spring.

Defending SWAC champion Alcorn State is the only league school to opt out. Teams that were schedule to play the Braves will be awarded a win by forfeit.

Visiting school bands will not be allowed to perform and neither school will be able to bring bands for the classic games or neutral site games this spring.

PRIME TIME AFFECT

Much of the excitement around this spring in the SWAC can be traced to Jackson State and the Jaguars hiring of NFL legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as head coach.

In his true “Prime Time” aura, Sanders has created excitement not just around JSU’s program but around the SWAC, as well. For proof, just look at the league’s ESPN programming lineup for the spring. Sanders has created a lot of buzz by putting together the best 2021 recruiting class in the FCS and quite possibly the best class of any HBCU program in history. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see most of those players on the field until this upcoming fall schedule, per NCAA guidelines.


SWAC ON ESPN

Feb. 27     2 p.m.      Mississippi Valley State at Jackson State        ESPN3*

March 6  Noon  Jackson State at Grambling State                    ESPN3*

March 6   TBA    Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Southern                      ESPN3

March 6     7 p.m.      Texas Southern at Prairie View A&M             ESPN3

March 20     TBA   Jackson State at Alabama State                     ESPN3*

March 20    Noon        Alabama A&M at Prairie View A&M              ESPN3

March 27    TBA    Grambling State at Alabama A&M                 ESPN3

March 27    TBA            Alabama State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff           ESPN3

March 28      3 p.m.       Prairie View A&M at Jackson State              ESPNU

April    3         3 p.m.  Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Mississippi Valley St     ESPN3

April 10         3 p.m.  Alabama A&M at Jackson State                   ESPNU

April 10           7 p.m.        Southern at Prairie View A&M                    ESPNU

April 17         6:30 p.m.      Alabama A&M vs Alabama State              ESPNU

May 1               3 p.m.        Cricket Wireless SWAC Championship     ESPNU

*Indicates tape delay games

All Game Times are CST

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pos        Player                        School

QB        Aqeel Glass                 Alabama A&M

DL   Jason Dumas                Prairie View

LB    Keonte Hampton        Jackson State

RB  Devon Benn            Southern

DB        Jaylen Harris            Prairie View

GAMES TO WATCH

Feb. 26       Southern at Alabama State

March 6      Jackson State at Grambling State

March 6       Texas Southern at Prairie View

March 28     Prairie View at Jackson State

April 17  Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State