By LUT WILLIAMS – BCSP Editor
Are we witnessing the brick-by-brick dismantling of the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference?
One week after conference member Florida A&M University announced that it will leave after this year to join the Southwestern Athletic Conference and just four months after North Carolina A&T State University announced that it will move next season to the Big South Conference, another current MEAC member is reportedly contemplating a move.
And there may be more.
HBCU Gameday reported that the board of trustees of current MEAC member Bethune Cookman University held an emergency meeting last Thursday to consider a move to either the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) or the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Following that story, B-CU’s Athletics Director Lynn W. Thompson issued the following statement Tuesday to HBCU Gameday’s Vaughn Wilson.
“Bethune-Cookman University has enjoyed a great partnership with the MEAC for forty years. However, like many other institutions across the nation, we are presently engaged in an analysis to assess all options available to us regarding athletic conference affiliation.
“Toward this end, we will continue to follow the directive of our Board and institutional leadership to ensure our alignment with an athletic conference that best meets the long-term needs of Bethune-Cookman University.”
Sounds like trouble to me.
Additionally, according to public records of MEAC member Delaware State University’s Board of Trustees agendas and minutes, that school’s Athletics Sub-Committee under the direction of Board member Dr. Debbie Harrington has been giving updates since a January 2020 meeting and presented at its March 2020 meeting a report on ‘conference affiliation benchmarkings.’
Attempts to reach Del State athletic officials Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Florida A&M’s decision came two weeks before the MEAC’s notification deadline of July 1 for teams leaving the conference. A decision after July 1 subjects a school to as much as a $250,000 financial penalty and potential scheduling conflicts.
If B-CU is to make a move, it will likely come before the July 1 deadline.
The departure of FAMU also leaves Bethune-Cookman as the lone member of the MEAC in the Sunshine State. With Savannah State University now gone, the closest MEAC opponent for B-CU is South Carolina State University, five hours away in Orangeburg, S.C. Trips to schools like Morgan State University and Coppin State University in Baltimore, and DelState in Dover, Delaware are all north of 800 miles. FAMU’s decision to leave the MEAC and join the SWAC has also perhaps influenced BCU. Both moved into the MEAC in 1979 after a long history in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).
In joining the SWAC however, B-CU would in fact have to cover a longer distance that it would now in the MEAC. SWAC members Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University in the Houston area are more than 900 miles from B-CU’s home in Daytona Beach, Florida as is Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas told the BCSP last week that the conference’s objective and strategy now was to keep “a core group of institutions to insure that we do not lose our (NCAA) Div. I status.”
That number, according to Thomas, was seven member-institutions playing football and basketball that have played in the league for eight consecutive years and fielding the other requisite number of Div. I sports teams.
The conference, after the departures of N. C. A&T and FAMU, will have seven such schools – Morgan State, Delaware State, Howard University, Norfolk State University, South Carolina State and Bethune-Cookman – but would fall below that threshold if it loses either B-CU or DelState.
Coppin State and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore are MEAC members that do not field football teams.
Quote: “Bethune-Cookman University has enjoyed a great partnership with the MEAC for forty years. However, like many other institutions across the nation, we are presently engaged in an analysis to assess all options available to us regarding athletic conference affiliation. “Toward this end, we will continue to follow the directive of our Board and institutional leadership to ensure our alignment with an athletic conference that best meets the long-term needs of Bethune-Cookman University.”