Column: The MEAC is in trouble

Columnist Alexis Hamilton. Photo by Alexis Hamilton

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference is on life support.

With Bethune-Cookman University announcing that it will leave the MEAC for the Southwestern Athletic Conference after the 2020-2021 school year, it became the third school to leave the conference this year. North Carolina A&T University announced the move to the Big South back in February and Florida A&M University announce its departure in early June.

Let’s back up a couple years when Hampton University made its exit after the 2017-2018 season. At the time it didn’t seem like such a big issue because the school felt it was in their best interest to leave. And it seems like it was as Pirates are thriving in their new conference.

If we’re going to be honest, Hampton garnered a lot of basketball fans, but football didn’t really have much to show. In the MEAC, football reigns over everything else. With that said, Hampton leaving was a loss, but not a big loss.

Savannah State University made its exit in 2019 for more clear reasons. The school that struggled heavily in the MEAC stepped down to Division II. Again, a loss but not one that would cause an uproar.

When NCAT, announced that it would be leaving the conference, many were caught off guard and left wondering why. The Aggies were named HBCU champions four out of the past five years and won four Celebration Bowls in that time. This is what we should consider a huge loss for the MEAC, but it was something the conference could seemingly get over.

After NCAT’s announcement the MEAC issued statement claiming there was unity among the remaining institutions, but that proved to be untrue.

Last month, FAMU’s Board of Trustees decided that the university would be taking their talents to the SWAC. It was a decision that was well received and made sense. The majority of schools in the conference are within driving distance of FAMU, so the school would save money and the students wouldn’t miss as much school.

Then came the straw that sort of broke the MEAC’s back. B-CU followed in the footsteps of FAMU and decided to leave the MEAC for the SWAC. It still isn’t entirely clear why the Wildcats left, but the more the merrier. This begs the question: Will the MEAC survive?

Following B-CU’s exit, it isn’t hard to notice the trend of leaving There are only eight remaining schools, six if we’re referring to football and five if we’re referring to baseball.

Though the MEAC still remains a Division I conference, if it were to lose another school with a football program, the conference would not be recognized as such in that sport.

While it’s hard to tell why schools are leaving, it is evident that the MEAC needs to work on expanding its membership. They’re going to have to find a way to make the most of the 2020-2021 season and that has already proven to be difficult with FAMU’s game against Southern University canceled due to COVID-19.

The future of the MEAC is murky. We will have to see how Commissioner Dennis Thomas plays this out.