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Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod talks with media at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in 2016.

Is the current talk about racial change in college athletics rhetoric or for real?

Goodness knows, we’ve heard the rhetoric many times before.

That’s why this time is so much more encouraging. It actually does appear to be real. I mean, seriously real. So real, in fact, conferences are beginning to step up and take a stand.

Guess who one of those leagues is?

Conference USA.

On the heels of SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey threatening not to hold any league championship competitions in Mississippi until it changes the state flag, which still contains the Confederate symbol, C-USA also climbed aboard.

Since league member Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said, “In order to ensure we provide environments that align with our continued mission to support and protect our student-athletes,” the conference would take a look at its championship policies on hosting championship events.

MacLeod’s comments didn’t name Mississippi specifically, but did mention “symbols and individuals that represent horrific injustices of the past.”

Obviously, Southern Miss drew Conference USA’s attention because the Golden Eagles are scheduled to host the league’s 2020 baseball tournament.

So, MacLeod took the appropriate action and said all the right things.

Good for her.

Meanwhile, back in Mississippi, the SEC’s commissioner isn’t mincing any words.

“It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the State of Mississippi,” Sankey said in a statement. “Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all.

“In the event there is no change, there will be consideration of precluding Southeastern Conference championship events from being conducted in the State of Mississippi until the flag is changed.”

Several state universities, including Mississippi State and Ole Miss, stopped flying the flag in 2016.

Mississippi State President Mark Keenum issued a statement shortly after Sankey’s comments Thursday, saying he understood the commissioner’s position.

“Clearly, the current national climate is such that this debate may produce unintended consequences for our student-athletes here at Mississippi State University and those at the University of Mississippi,” Keenum said in the statement, adding that there could be a negative economic impact to keeping the current state flag.

Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn Boyce and Athletic Director Keith Carter also joined in on the controversy.

“The University of Mississippi community concluded years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others,” the statement said.

“In 2016, the university stopped flying the state flag over our campus. Mississippi needs a flag that represents the qualities of our state that unite us, not those that still divide us.

“We support the SEC’s position for changing the Mississippi State flag to an image that is more welcoming and inclusive for all people.”

Yet, in 2001, Mississippi residents voted to keep the current flag. That sentiment seems to be changing with the times, however, because Mississippi legislators have proposed a bill that would rid the Confederate symbol from the flag.

It’s nice to see progressive thinking prevail.

Along those lines, another Group of Five league — the American Athletic Conference — also is joining the fight for change by establishing a Racial Equality Action Group.

It will consist of administrators, head coaches and student-athletes from the AAC’s member schools along with members of the league’s staff.

The best part is this doesn’t appear to be merely lip service. So, college athletics actually might be moving in the right direction.

For a change.