In a move that could cause a cultural shift and change the balance of power in HBCU athletics, Hampton University on Thursday announced that it is leaving the MEAC to join the Big South Conference.
According to a statement released by Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton sought a more proximity-friendly conference.
Most of the MEAC schools are located in North Carolina, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington — with two in faraway Florida (Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman). However, the entire Big South Conference for most sports is based in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, obviously much more geographically friendly for Hampton, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.“Our student-athletes will spend less time traveling and more time in classes on campus,” Harvey said. “This keeps the proper focus on academics, which is our chief reason for being. The smaller geographic footprint will also reduce travel expenses.”
Hampton, which was a member of the MEAC for 22 years, officially will join the Big South on July 1, 2018. Sixteen of the 17 Hampton sports will be played in the Big South Conference, with men’s lacrosse the only exception.
Author, HBCU historian and college administrator Michael Hurd is director of Prairie View A&M University’s Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture. He is also the author of Black College Football: 1892-1992 — One Hundred Years of History, Education, and Pride.
“It’s sad to see another program leave a traditional HBCU conference, but I understand the cost-cutting, fiscal reasons — reducing travel costs, and academic reasons as well, such as less time away from the classroom,” said Hurd in an interview with Diverse. “Hampton has been a vital member and a force in the MEAC throughout its affiliation with the conference. You’re already seeing HBCUs as system members of state universities, and that presents the challenge of maintaining the sense of Black culture.”