DSU suspends football season as virus forces MEAC to cancel fall sports

Delaware State and Delaware won’t be squaring off in football, at least not in the fall, this year. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

DOVER — Ironically, Rod Milstead was already in an online meeting with his players when the news broke.

One of Delaware State’s players saw a news alert that the MEAC was canceling its fall sports season.

“I said, ‘Well you’ve got it first hand,’” said Milstead, the DSU head coach.

Thursday’s announcement hardly comes as a surprise, of course.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference joins the Ivy League and Patriot League as NCAA Division I FCS football conferences who won’t be playing football this fall.

It’s still very much up in the air whether any college football will be played this fall as schools continue to contend with the coronavirus pandemic.

Officially, the MEAC is suspending all competition for its fall sports.

It may end up being the first time DelState hasn’t played a football season since 1943 because of World War II. However, the MEAC did say in its press release that it is considering holding its traditional fall sports season in the spring this school year.

DSU coach Rod Milstead knew the MEAC was getting ready to make a decision about its fall season. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Milstead said he knew the MEAC was taking a vote on Thursday.

“It is disappointing, of course, but not a surprise,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve kind of shared with my team over the last few months — that it was always a possibility. A lot of different possible scenarios were thrown around. We understood that.”

One of the biggest issues for college sports conferences is that they span several different states, many of which are facing varying levels of virus outbreaks and are under different restrictions. The MEAC has schools in seven states.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes continue to be our number one priority,” said Howard University president, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick in announcing the decision.

“Everyone wants to have a fall season for student-athletes, fans and others,” but “the mental and physical health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff is paramount,” agreed MEAC commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas.

Conferences canceling their football seasons has an impact on their opponents as well. Delaware State was slated to play at Delaware on Nov. 21 in the last game of the regular season.

The Colonial Athletic Association, which includes UD, hasn’t made any announcement about its football season, yet. The CAA did recently cancel its online Media Day, however.

Wesley College, which plays in the New Jersey Athletic Conference in football, still hasn’t gotten any official word on its season, either. But the Wolverines have already had two opponents — Delaware Valley and the College of New Jersey — cancel their seasons.

With no competitions scheduled for the fall now, Delaware State athletic director Scott Gines is still encouraging Hornet athletes to use the time productively.

Also having their seasons canceled were DSU’s women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and cross country teams.

“As we prepare for the fall semester, suspended competition affords all of our 18 programs and 450 student-athletes with intensive opportunities to train, practice, and develop their crafts on campus,” Gines said in a press release. “We are also preparing for amended seasons and schedules still yet ahead.”

Likewise, Milstead said the Hornets will continue to prepare as if they might be playing football in the spring. He said there’s still a great deal they can accomplish this fall, especially in the mental part of the game.

Milstead said he’s seen a few different possibilities that the MEAC has discussed for returning to the field.

“I would love a spring scenario,” said Milstead. “I have three new coaches and a different offensive system. We’re going to use this as something positive to continue to grow and build.

“We want to get down the mental aspects of a football game. If we can eliminate those mistakes, then we’re going to be a far better football club when we actually get on the field and be able to perform. Now everyone knows exactly what to do.

“We’re going to prepare as if it (the spring season) is going to be a go so we can be in the best situation possible.”