MEAC Cancels 2020 Football Season

The first cancellation of a football season impacting East Carolina University reportedly came on Thursday as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference announced it would not play fall sports. The decision was initially reported by HBCUGameday.com and later confirmed in a release by the conference itself.

With the cancellation, Norfolk State will not make the trip to Greenville, North Carolina on Sept. 19 to face the Pirates. Had the game transpired as planned, it would have been the first-ever matchup between ECU and Norfolk State with the Pirates set to pay $300,000 to the visiting team.

The MEAC joins a growing list of FCS conferences that will not play football in the fall, while notable Power 5 conferences like the Big 10 and Pac-12 have already moved to a league-only schedule for 2020.

As things stand right now, ECU is scheduled to play Marshall in a Week 0 matchup on Aug. 29 to kick-off the college football schedule before visiting South Carolina on Sept. 12. The cancellation of Norfolk State gives the Pirates an open date ahead of their American Athletic Conference-opening tilt with UCF in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 24.

Georgia State is the third non-conference game remaining on the Pirates’ schedule, as the AAC still intends to play a full season in 2020.

AAC Issues Guidance Regarding In-season Testing Protocols

With the 2020 fall sports slate nearing, the AAC released some of its COVID-19 guidance for teams to follow this season. In a statement, Commissioner Mike Aresco laid out testing protocols for football teams that will require programs to test 72 hours prior to each game.

“The testing protocols will apply throughout the regular and bowl seasons,” Aresco said in the statement. “Our overall operational protocols will be finalized shortly and may be revised as circumstances and new information warrant. In addition, we are finalizing our Olympic sports testing and operational protocols.”

In most situations, that would mean teams would be required to test no later than Wednesday for a Saturday. With testing availability and turnaround time issues in some states, meeting that goal may present a challenge for some AAC teams.

For the Pirates, however, testing does not seem to be challenging as the proximity of Vidant Health facilities has cut the turnaround time drastically. Already, ECU was planning to test every member of its travel party once a week for the virus and will do its best to create a bubble around the players and staff on the road.

C.J. Johnson Earns National Recognition

In an announcement by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation on Thursday, ECU sophomore wide receiver C.J. Johnson was named to the 2020 Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch List.

Johnson, whose selection marks the 11th time since 2006 that an ECU receiver has been featured on the watch list, joins 55 other receivers in the honor nationally and seven other AAC wide-outs.

In 2019, Johnson caught 54 balls for a team-best 908 yards and 16.8 yards per catch. That yardage mark eclipsed an ECU freshman record, as Johnson notched four 100-yard receiving outings.

Johnson’s outstanding rookie campaign with the Pirates included breaking an ECU and AAC single-game record for most reception yards with 283 against Cincinnati. That mark was also the most single-game receiving yards by an FBS wide-out in 2019.

The Biletnikoff Award recognizes an outstanding receiver annually and is voted on by the Biletnikoff Award National Selection Committee, a group of more than 200 football journalists, commentators and former receivers.

ECU has had one finalist for the award, Zay Jones in 2016.

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