Get ready for Sunday afternoon football at Jacksonville State.
JSU released its spring football schedule today, and six of the seven games will be on Sundays, as the Ohio Valley Conference tries to fit rescheduled fall sports into the same time frame as the traditional spring sports. The lone exception will be Easter Sunday, as the league will play football on Saturday that weekend.
The Gamecocks will open Feb. 21 at Tennessee State. Three of the Gamecocks' seven spring games will be at home (Tennessee Tech, Southeast Missouri and Austin Peay) and four on the road (Tennessee State, UT Martin, Eastern Illinois and Murray State).
The OVC will play a round-robin football schedule that will include eight of the league's nine football-playing schools. Eastern Kentucky chose to play an eight-game fall schedule and sit out the spring, which is why four OVC schools have to play one more road game this spring than home contests.
"It does create an unbalanced schedule," JSU athletics director Greg Seitz said by telephone this morning between meetings. "The unfortunate thing is we only have three home games instead of four. However, we are excited to be playing in the spring and competing for an OVC championship and, obviously, playing for a national championship, which is always our goal."
The schedule will be completed April 11. The 16-team NCAA FCS playoff field will be announced April 18, followed by the first-round games beginning April 24. The FCS championship game will be May 14, 15 or 16.
The OVC won't play football the weekend of March 6-7 because of the league's men's and women's basketball tournaments.
Seitz said schedules for other sports will be released later. He did give a small preview: baseball will play three-game OVC series with single games on Fridays and doubleheaders on Saturdays. Softball still will have Sunday games.
"Just from a day-of-the-week standpoint, Sunday really was our best option for football in order to address all those logistical issues on our campus from staffing to everything we deal with," Seitz said. "Sunday was the best day conference-wide for us to play football."
Seitz said the OVC's intent is to return to having no scheduled doubleheaders for league baseball series in 2022. Doubleheaders will feature in the 2021 schedule as the league tries to manage all the sports.
For this school year, the last weeks of winter sports could coincide with the beginnings of the traditional spring sports seasons and the shifted fall sports seasons.
"We'll look to use every day of the week as we look to play all 17 sports," Seitz said.
The NCAA Council has offered a nugget for fall sports athletes who are dealing with unusual schedule changes: a blanket waiver for fall-sports athletes that will allow them to compete in 2020-21 without losing a year of eligibility.
“Words can’t express how proud I am of all of our Gamecock student-athletes for how they have handled these unprecedented times and represented Jacksonville State so well,” Seitz said. “I’m glad the NCAA will allow them to compete for this championship without costing them a year of eligibility. It’s just the right thing to do.”
As for the spring football slate, after opening with Tennessee State, JSU will play at home Feb. 28 against Tennessee Tech, at UT Martin on March 14, at home against Southeast Missouri on March 21 and Austin Peay on March 28. JSU will play at Eastern Illinois on April 3, which is a Saturday. JSU will finish its regular season at Murray State on April 11.
The OVC announced Aug. 14 that it would shift its fall sports to the spring, although schools were allowed to play an abbreviated fall schedule. JSU chose to play four games, including Saturday's home game against Mercer. Austin Peay chose to play three games, and EKU will have its eight-game schedule.
In a news release about the spring schedule, OVC commissioner Beth DeBauche was quoted as saying, “It is our sincere intention and desire to provide our student-athletes with an opportunity to play football this spring assuming the facts surrounding the pandemic support it. We are excited to have plans and a schedule in place for it helps to create a sense of certainty during these uncertain times.”
JSU's spring football schedule
Feb. 21, at Tennessee State, 2 p.m.
Feb. 28, Tennessee Tech, 3 p.m.
March 7, OPEN
March 14, at UT Martin, 1 p.m.
March 21, Southeast Missouri, 2 p.m.
March 28, Austin Peay, 2 p.m.
April 3, at Eastern Illinois, 1 p.m.
April 11, at Murray State, TBA
OVC's spring football schedule
Sunday, February 21
Austin Peay at Tennessee Tech
Eastern Illinois at UT Martin
Jacksonville State at Tennessee State
Murray State at Southeast Missouri
Sunday, February 28
Tennessee State at Austin Peay
Southeast Missouri at Eastern Illinois
Tennessee Tech at Jacksonville State
UT Martin at Murray State
Sunday, March 7
Sunday, March 14
Austin Peay at Southeast Missouri
Eastern Illinois at Tennessee State
Jacksonville State at UT Martin
Murray State at Tennessee Tech
Sunday, March 21
UT Martin at Austin Peay
Tennessee Tech at Eastern Illinois
Southeast Missouri at Jacksonville State
Tennessee State at Murray State
Sunday, March 28
Austin Peay at Jacksonville State
Eastern Illinois at Murray State
Tennessee Tech at Southeast Missouri
UT Martin at Tennessee State
Saturday, April 3
Murray State at Austin Peay
Jacksonville State at Eastern Illinois
Southeast Missouri at UT Martin
Tennessee State at Tennessee Tech
Sunday, April 11
Austin Peay at Eastern Illinois
Jacksonville State at Murray State
Southeast Missouri at Tennessee State
Tennessee Tech at UT Martin
April 18, NCAA selections
April 24, First-round games
May 14, 15 or 16, Championship