TSU athletic director sympathetic to Alcorn State’s decision to opt out of spring football
Alcorn State junior defensive back Anthony Williams Jr. closes in to make a tackled against Texas Southern senior running back Le Tevin Wilcox Saturday afternoon at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

While at least two athletic directors in the SWAC have expressed frustration with Alcorn State’s decision to pull out of this spring’s football schedule, Texas Southern athletic director Kevin Granger is not in that crowd.

Granger is concerned about the SWAC power program after it was made official earlier this week that the two-time defending conference champion was opting out of the six-game conference-only schedule due to COVID-19 concerns surrounding the football program. The Tigers are scheduled to travel to Lorman, Miss. to take on the Braves on April 10.

TSU Athletic Director Kevin Granger

“No ill feelings towards them because we are going to miss a football game,” Granger said to The Defender on Thursday night.  “That wasn’t even my concern. During COVID everybody has been affected. We’ve had to cancel basketball games and you name it. So, every time you look around there is a game being canceled, so I didn’t go to the side of it at all.”

After a week of talk that the Braves were pulling out of the shortened spring schedule due to COVID-19 concerns, the school made it official on Tuesday. This comes after the 10-member league voted to postpone last fall in favor of the spring when it felt there would be a better handle on the spread of the worldwide pandemic.

At this article’s posting, SWAC officials had declined to discuss the matter.

The 2021 SWAC spring slate is scheduled to begin February 27. The Braves now say they will focus on getting through the COVID-19 related issues while having a real spring practice in preparation for the 2021 fall schedule.

“Instead of preparing for spring competition, the program will move forward with traditional spring practice to prepare for fall play,” Alcorn State coach Fred McNair said in a released statement. “With ongoing health and safety protocols in place, the team will continue with monitored conditioning, strength training, and practices.”

There is speculation that Alcorn State wanted to spare the expense of putting on an abbreviated schedule that does not include classic games that are often lucrative to HBCU programs or “money games” against bigger Division I programs and the Celebration Bowl that pits the SWAC and MEAC champs for the Black College Football national championship that won’t be played this spring.

Alcorn State sophomore wide receiver Norlando Veals carries the ball downfield after a catch past Texas Southern junior linebacker Jarius Moore Saturday afternoon at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Moreover, the fact that Alcorn State admits it will have a traditional spring practice while it has said the pandemic has made it impossible to have a football season, has rubbed some the wrong way.

But that isn’t how Granger is looking at it.

“My immediate, initial concern was that I feel bad for Alcorn,” Granger said. “Obviously, they have to be going through some serious issues to want to cancel a sport that they are the most dominant in. Most universities are not quick to shut down a program that they have won the championship in the past couple of years and represented the conference in the Celebration Bowl.

“So for them to shut that down, my immediate concern was with their program and their organization, and I know that it had to be something serious for them to get to this point.”

The Braves are the only SWAC school that has pulled out so far, but they join MEAC’s Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M and North Carolina Central and Big South member Hampton as HBCU programs that have backed out of playing this spring.

Granger counts Alcorn State backing out as a mild benefit to his program, because it’s one less road trip and also one less game the athletes will have to endure in a year where they will play two seasons.

“We wanted to play Alcorn, so don’t get it twisted. But we do understand that COVID is affecting every sport and every program differently,” he said. “I don’t know all of the challenges and different issues or concerns they’ve had down there at Alcorn, but I do know that it has been hard to manage during COVID.

“And by the time you bring in your football, which is your biggest sport on campus, that can present some serious challenges if you don’t already have things in place.”

Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris