For those of you who are familiar with social media, right now the Southland Conference is the dog from the "This is fine," meme.
If you're not familiar, there was a 2013 web comic named "On Fire," in which the dog patiently sits in a house and says, "This is fine," as the house is engulfed in flames. The comic ends with the dog melting like ice cream on a hot day.
The point of "This is fine," is to illustrate when a person underestimates how much of a problem a situation is. Right now, the SLC is that dog.
Now, I'm not saying that the conference lacks contingency plans going forward for the 2020 fall season. What I am saying, however, is that the perception seems to be that they don't have any plans, at least publicly.
The silence is especially glaring when contrasted with what some other conferences have already done. For instance, the Ivy League and Patriot League - two Football Championship Subdivision conferences - have already cancelled all sports for the fall; the Ivy League will reevaluate winter and spring sports as well as if they will play fall sports in 2021 at a later date.
I don't expect the Southland Conference to go that far, at least not right now. At a press conference earlier in the week, McNeese State University President Daryl Burckel stated that the plan for now is still to play sports this fall and even stated that fans could be in the stands, with one side of the stadium for fans who want to social distance and the other side for fans who don't mind not social distancing. I think that part might be a bit risky and could require some sort of liability waiver, like I wrote about last week. Regardless, it seems as if the Southland Conference wants to make sports happen in the fall, even as other FCS conferences are taking drastic steps and not playing sports in the fall
Hampton University, a historically Black university in Virginia, suspended all fall 2020 sports. The Pirates are a member of the Big South, and while the conference has not suspended fall competitions, having one school do it certainly doesn't bode well for the whole conference.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference has already stated that, if the fall sports haven't started by mid-October, then the seasons will be cancelled. Southern has already cancelled a non-conference game against Florida A&M (FAMU will join the SWAC ahead of the 2021 season). Alabama State cancelled its non-conference game against Division II Tuskegee. There are other HBCU games that have already been cancelled ahead of whatever will happen in the Fall.
At the Football Bowl Subdivision level, the Big Ten and Pac 12 have already decided to go with conference-only schedules for the 2020 season. It is widely expected that the other Power 5 conferences will follow suit.
Multiple FCS conferences have stopped short of suspending sports for the fall semester, but other changes are taking place. The Ohio Valley Conference and Colonial Athletic Association postponed their respective virtual media days indefinitely. Meanwhile, the SLC still has plans on its virtual media day taking place next Wednesday, July 22. Today, the conference released its preseason all-conference teams as well.
It seems like the Southland is going business as usual. But like I said before, I am fully aware that they could have plans going on behind the scenes. I sure hope so at least. I just don't want the SLC to get caught waiting until the last minute to make adjustments that could easily be made right now.
I will admit that it is easier to keep a schedule intact now and cancel later, because a team will have a hard time getting a game back that they cancelled. Likewise, a conference will have an extremely tough time rescheduling an entire season's worth of games that it cancelled, mostly because non-conference opponents have moved on.
Either way, I hope the Southland Conference knows what it's doing. High school football in Texas is slowly being pushed back, which is about as sure of a sign as any that this whole situation is for real. Most of college football is starting to realize the gravity of the situation, while the NFL seems almost oblivious.
But please Southland, have a plan. What plan? I'm not sure. But have one.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org