Hampton University today announced its plans to leave the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference for the more regionally-friendly Big South Conference, a move expected to shift a large portion of the Division I HBCU sports landscape.
The story, originally reported by HBCU Gameday, was revealed by internal communications from the MEAC conference office to member schools.
— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) November 16, 2017
In an exclusive interview with the HBCU Digest, Hampton President William R. Harvey confirmed the transition, and called it the next step in the university’s plans to expand the experience of student athletes and HU’s athletic brand.
“We think this move supports our student athletes having more time in the classroom, and meets our objectives to reduce travel-related costs for competition and increased access for alumni to see our teams play. We have enjoyed our long relationship with the MEAC, but we do consider this a big deal for Hampton and our plan for athletics.”
The move ends years of speculation about Hampton’s desire to remain in MEAC competition, which has had stretches of dominance in the three high-exposure, revenue bearing sports of football and men’s and women’s basketball. The women’s program has won five consecutive MEAC tournament championship and six out of the last eight years, while men’s basketball made consecutive appearances in the NCAA men’s basketball national tournament.
Between 1996 and 2006, Hampton football won or shared five MEAC champions, including three consecutive titles between 2004 and 2006.
Hampton will compete in all men’s and women’s sports with the exception of men’s lacrosse, against member schools stationed throughout Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Big South officials expect Hampton to begin formal competition for titles in the 2018-19 season.