MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There will be no fall sports in 2020 at Tuskegee University.
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced the suspension of fall sports last week, and Tuskegee President Dr. Lily McNair confirmed the Golden Tigers will not be playing this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tuskegee Athletic Director and head football coach Willie Slater says it is the right move.
"I think it is for the best. I think it is for the welfare of our student athletes. That's the most important thing for me," Slater stated.
Slater says the school had an opportunity to play as an independent this year, but it just was not safe for the student-athletes, and that’s the top priority.
“There are a lot of reasons I think it is better to kind of put it off right now for the safety and welfare of our players. This is going to be a challenge for us. Particularly if nobody else does it but us. That was my whole concern,” said Slater. “My whole concern was if the SIAC decides not to play, what about all the rest of the schools in the country? Are they going to decide not to play? I was concerned about losing our program, but in spite of that I still think we are doing what’s best for our student-athletes.”
This means no Labor Day Classic between Tuskegee and Alabama State on Sept. 5.
ASU has announced it is looking for a replacement for the Golden Tigers.
“I know it’s a big game for alumni, and I know it’s a big game for Alabama State,” said Slater. “They make a lot of money off that game. I treat all those games the same. All of them are the same to me. I want to win every single one of them. I hate we aren’t getting to play a lot of folks.”
A spring football season is a possibility for the SIAC, but Slater has concerns.
“I can’t say I’m really in favor of that, because if you play in the spring you wouldn’t be playing for no kind of championship or anything like that. That kind of escalates the ability to get injured. If you get injured in the spring, your chance of getting back in the fall are going to be very slim. That’s always a concern of mine,” stated Slater.
Tuskegee features football, cross country and volleyball as fall sports.
“We want them to be safe, you know. We want them to have an opportunity to do it again some other day. If you get this virus, it’s a chance you are gonna die. That’s some serious stuff,” said Slater.