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'Our hearts break for our student-athletes': MEAC suspends fall sports over COVID-19 concerns, impacting NC A&T athletics

The conference said the growing number of COVID-19 cases along the eastern seaboard largely influenced the decision.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference announced Thursday its suspending all fall sports amid the coronavirus pandemic impacting athletes at N.C. A&T.

No decision has been made if fall sports will be moved to the spring.

The conference made of 11 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) including N.C. A&T has cancelled fall sports due to the growing number of cases.

“Our hearts break for our student-athletes, who continue to have their lives overturned by this pandemic, and for the many faithful supporters across the nation of our athletics teams," said Earl Hilton, director of intercollegiate athletics for N.C. A&T State University. "We support every effort to protect and maintain the health of our students, coaches, staff and Aggie Nation supporters.”

Hilton said the university will provide the support student-athletes need through this “difficult period.” 

“(Which) will include opportunities for them to receive academic and athletic support necessary for them to effectively navigate these unprecedented challenges,” he said.

The council of presidents and chancellors of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) announced the league will suspend all sports competition, championship and non-championship segments, for the 2020 fall season, as a result of the pandemic.

The conference plans to move forth with winter sports competitions as scheduled, unless health and medical professionals advise otherwise.

“We will inform the public on further decisions,” MEAC said in a press release. “The council of presidents and chancellors took this action out of a concern for the safety as well as the physical and mental health of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, support staff, faculty and fans.”

The conference said the growing number of COVID-19 cases along the eastern seaboard largely influenced the decision as data suggests African American and other minority communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“The MEAC is committed to ensuring the correct measures are in place to reduce exposure to the virus,” the conference said.

The 11 HBCUs include: Bethune-Cookman University, Coppin State University, Delaware State University, Florida A&M University, Howard University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Morgan State University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University and South Carolina State University.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes continue to be our number one priority. We have made the decision to suspend all sports competitions after careful review of the current conditions and consideration of the potential exposure that regular travel to competitions may cause and ongoing extensive physical contact,” said Howard University President and Chair of MEAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick. 

Frederick said although competitions have been suspended, each member institution will plan ongoing engagement of all student-athletes to ensure their best physical and mental well-being as they continue their education.

MEAC said institutions will continue the resocialization process for student-athletes which is made of mental and physical health counseling, strength and conditioning protocol and compliance with all COVID-19 safety requirements.

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