By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
Photo by: Lauren Barksdale | Photographer
On Sept. 29, the South Alabama Jaguars (1-2) postponed the ninth annual ‘Battle for the Belt’ matchup with their in-state rivals Troy Trojans (1-1) due to COVID-19 concerns. The official announcement from the football program’s official announcement said it was a precautionary measure due to their student-athletes’ limited availability. The game between the Trojans was originally slated for this weekend in Hancock Whitney Stadium.
Some players for the Jaguars have been out for two weeks due to the Coronavirus’s effects. The NCAA states that if there are not enough players in a certain position group available and COVID-free, the game must be postponed or canceled. There have been rising concerns of COVID-19 throughout the country but particularly with South Alabama. This is the first football activity that has been postponed by the effects of COVID-19.
The Battle for the Belt is one of the most intense rivalries in the Sun Belt Conference. The Trojans have won five of the eight total matchups. South Alabama last won the rivalry game against the Trojans in 2017 with a 19-8 score in Troy. This game was one of only two rivalry games in the Sun Belt to feature a trophy.
Both the Jaguars and the Trojans are determined to make the matchup happen, but the difficulty is finding an open date for both programs to play. The Jaguars will have a bye-week for the following week on Saturday, Oct. 10, before they take on the Texas State Bobcats at home on Saturday, Oct. 17. Troy does not have another open date until Dec. 12. The Sun Belt Conference Championship game for 2020 is slated to play on Dec. 19 between the top teams in the East and West Division. The change was announced by the conference early this past Monday.
The Sun Belt Conference has an interesting dilemma when it comes to scheduling their games affected by COVID-19. They could let the Jaguars and Trojans play in Mobile on Dec. 12, a week before the Conference Championship game. The Jaguars were projected to finish third in the West, while the Trojans were projected to finish third in the East. Neither teams have started Sun Belt Conference play yet this season. This would be the easiest action for the conference to make. The 2020 College Football Bowl season starts on Dec. 19, where there could be a Sun Belt team in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl.
The effects of COVID-19 have caused multiple games to be delayed and some teams to have yet to start their season while other their fellow conference teams have. Last week, five matchups were postponed, including the #7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0) @ the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (0-2). This week, there are only two postponed due to COVID-19, including the Trojans @ the Jaguars.
Time will tell before the key rivalry matchup is slated back for the 2020 season, but the Sun Belt Conference, the South Alabama Jaguars, and the Troy Trojans are determined to make this game happen.