Jaguars left scrambling to find home-opener for 2020

By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor

It has been a difficult year for the entire world. The sports world is no exception with all sports of little leagues to the professional taking a serious postponement to cancelations. With some sports trying to take off in the best way they can, the NCAA and its conference are taking every measure they can to ensure the participant’s safety when fall officially starts.

One thing keeping the University of South Alabama and its athletics hopes up was Hancock Whitney Stadium, the football program’s brand new on-campus home stadium. The South Alabama Jaguars were set to host their first-ever home game in Hancock Whitney against the Grambling State Tigers in week two of the 2020 college football season.

On July 20th, however, the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) canceled all fall sports competition for their ten members with the potential of playing their games in the spring of 2021. The SWAC is now the fourth football conference in the FCS-level to cancel their competition in the fall for all sports. They join the Ivy League, the Colonial Athletic Association, and the Patriot League in postponing their fall sports.

This leaves the Jaguars having to look for a new opponent after Grambling State was forced to postpone their football season to the spring. This matchup was big for the Jaguars not only for the fact that it was the first football game in their new stadium, but it was against a historically famous program in Grambling State. This is a program that has 15 black college football national championships and 26 conference championships.

There are several programs that the Jaguars use could call upon to take Grambling State’s place in week two of the 2020 season. At the FBS division one level, the BYU Cougars have to reschedule five games this season with four of them in the first weeks of the season. The Connecticut Huskies are another team in the division FBS football that is looking to replace their week two matchup as they would have been playing the Illinois Fighting Illini in week two. The Big Ten, ACC, and the PAC-12 are power five conferences that have decided to play conference-only games in the 2020 season.

There is an indication that the Jaguars might prefer to play an FCS-level team in week two of the season. Most teams in the FBS play at-least one FCS-level team including the Jaguars. Last season, the Jaguars played the Jackson State Tigers in their home-opener and won decisively with a 37-14. The Grambling State Tigers would have been that lone FCS-level team for the Jaguars.

The perk for an FBS-team like South Alabama to play an FCS-team this season is that the NCAA ruled that a win over an FCS-team would count as two wins. This was to help teams, whose schedules affected or altered, have a less difficult time of becoming bowl eligibility.

A team to watch for as South Alabama looks to find that week two matchup are the Elon Phoenix. The Phoenix are a part of the 12-team in Colonial Athletic Association, where the conference also postponed their fall sports competition. The CAA did allow their members to play as an independent for this fall instead of playing with the conference in the spring of 2021.

Both Elon and the James Madison Dukes have made their intentions to play football this fall. Elon was set to travel to face the Duke Blue Devils of the ACC Conference. With the ACC Conference having their teams play conference-only and the CAA allowing Elon to play as an independent, the Elon Phoenix are an option.

As of Wednesday, July 22nd, the Villanova Wildcats haven’t decided whether to play football in the fall as an independent or in the spring as they are in the CAA. The Wildcats were set to travel to the Bucknell Bison of the Patriot League in week two until that the conference canceled their fall competitions as well.

Other teams that the Jaguars could play in week two are Bryant, Cal Poly, Colgate, Gardner-Webb, Monmouth, Montana State, Sacramento State, Tennessee Tech, and Wagner. The Jaguars have faced the Cal Poly Mustangs once in their regular-season finale of the 2011 season where they lost with a 41-10. This was the season before the Jaguars became an FBS-team in the Sun Belt Conference. The Jaguars have one victory against the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs dating back to the 2015 season opener where South Alabama won with a 33-23 score.