(Stats Perform) – The NCAA hosting FCS playoffs in the spring would be wild enough, but here’s something to make it even wilder: a SWAC team competing in them as part of the conference’s 100th anniversary celebration.
The SWAC, like most FCS conferences, has canceled its fall season due to concerns over the COVID-19 global pandemic, but it also maintains a goal of shifting action to the spring semester. It hasn’t had a team participate in the playoffs since Jackson State in 1997, mostly because the conference shifted to an annual conference championship game two years later.
“It will be interesting to see where we land,” SWAC commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said Friday. “We’re not convinced we’re going to be able to have a Celebration Bowl (where the SWAC champ faces the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champ). If we don’t have a Celebration Bowl, we want to work with the other conferences to put together a workable plan” for playoff participation.
The SWAC, which dates to 1920 and has 10 members, isn’t one of the 10 FCS conferences with an automatic bid to the 24-team playoffs, and though its teams are eligible for at-large bids, a match is virtually impossible. Some schools complete their regular season during Thanksgiving weekend, which is the first round of the 24-team playoffs, and the conference championship game occurs during the weekend of the round of 16. An at-large bid could only go to a team that isn’t mathematically alive for an East or West division title the weekend before Thanksgiving and has a strong-enough resume.
An FCS spring season will only occur if health conditions are deemed safe, but the SWAC already has a plan: a seven-game schedule beginning with an eight-week training period in January.
The Celebration Bowl is usually played on the third Saturday in December, but its future appears murky beyond the 2020-21 academic year because Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M will leave the MEAC to join the SWAC next July, raising the SWAC to 12 members and dropping MEAC football to only six. If so, the SWAC participating in spring playoffs could be the restart of an annual bid.