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East Mississippi CC pulls plug on 2020 football season

SCOOBA — One of Mississippi’s top junior college football programs will not play this season.

The East Mississippi Community College Department of Athletics, with the support of the EMCC Board of Trustees, announced Tuesday that it will not participate in the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference season that is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

The decision was made due to safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, East Mississippi said it will honor its players’ scholarships. Student-athletes will remain enrolled in classes either virtually or in person as full-time students and will retain access to facilities and support services.

“The well-being of my players will always come first,” East Mississippi head coach Buddy Stephens said in a statement. “There are too many unknowns to put in front of our players moving forward at this time. We must make this incredibly heart-breaking decision to not participate in the fall 2020 season.”

Earlier this summer, the National Junior College Athletic Association canceled the fall football season but announced plans to play in the spring. The MACCC, however, broke ranks from the NJCAA and announced its own plans for a fall season beginning Oct. 1.

Mississippi’s teams will not be eligible to compete for the NJCAA national championship because of the split seasons. Thirteen of the NJCAA’s 54 football-playing schools are in Mississippi, and the state’s teams have won seven of the last nine national titles. East Mississippi has won five national championships since 2011, and seven state championships since 2009.

It was not immediately clear if East Mississippi would attempt to play in the spring, or wait until the fall of 2021 to play again.

“Player safety is of the utmost concern. We understand the decision made by East Mississippi Community College and support their stance,” MACCC Commissioner Steve Martin said.