By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the schedules of Maryland HBCU football programs who will not play big money games or an entire conference schedule. Bowie State University (BSU) will not take the field as the CIAA cancelled it’s entire sports schedule for 2020. Meanwhile, Morgan State is projected to lose $450,000 because of the B1G Conference’s decision to play a conference only schedule meaning the Bears won’t face Northwestern University this November.
A rise in COVID-19 cases has led to a pause in schools’ reopening plans in many of the states where CIAA teams reside. It has resulted in uncertainty whether students will return to campus this fall at several schools, so the collaborative effort by the conference’s athletic directors was adopted with safety considerations of the fans, sponsors, and student body.
In formally making this announcement, the CIAA has ensured neither of the HBCUs two Division II conferences will play sports this fall. The conference followed the lead of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) who followed the lead of Morehouse College chose to cancel it’s fall sports schedule one week earlier.
“The CIAA family is disappointed,” said CIAA Commissioner Jacqui McWilliams during their virtual press conference. “We’re the most resilient conference and have always reinvented ourselves to get better.”
This season will be the first since World War II that the conference will not play football during the fall semester. The CIAA is a 13-member conference spanning five states: Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina. Differences between the way each state handles their COVID-19 protocols was a major consideration when making the nearly unprecedented consensus. Unlike their counterparts at HBCU Division I programs, who need to subsidize their athletic department budgets with non-conference big payout revenue games, CIAA schools fund their programs through student activity fees, which keep their athletic programs solvent. The financial impact will not affect Bowie State as it will Morgan, who will lose almost half a million dollars with the cancellation at Northwestern.
However, student-athletes at BSU and throughout the CIAA will not lose their scholarships because of the pandemic. Though many athletes are on partial subsidy through their intercollegiate athletic participation, the schools have made the decision to continue honoring their previous commitment.
“It’s not a strain,” said BSU Vice President of athletics Clyde Doughty, chairman of the CIAA Athletic Directors Association. “We will reallocate funds and are looking at all options to be more efficient at spending.”
BSU is coming off back to back CIAA football championships and consecutive trips to the NCAA Playoffs for the first time in school history. The program has become a perennial Top 25 power in Division II. However, they will not have the chance to compete for a three peat until Spring 2021 at the earliest. The CIAA athletics directors are currently in the process of developing plans for a schedule to kickoff after the first of next year and there is now word on whether they would play a conference championship game. Currently, all plans for the 2021 CIAA Basketball Tournament in Baltimore remain in place.
During this hiatus the conference plans to use the extended offseason for their student athletes to create non-academic learning models that include leadership development, diversity and inclusion programs, which will help them succeed after their collegiate eligibility is over.
“It’s not just about sports,” Doughty said “There are teaching opportunities before us that will serve them 20 to 30 years down the road.”