Does the NC A&T Aggies switch to the Big South mean trouble for the MEAC?

Written by Thomas Scott

Greensboro, NC | North Carolina A&T sent shockwaves through the entire HBCU sports community when they announced their decision to leave the MEAC and join the Big South athletic conference.

For the past year, the North Carolina A&T Athletic Conference Assessment Committee (ACAC) has been conducting research and gathering relevant information about the potential switch to present to the Board of Trustees.

Board of Trustees member Timothy King, N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin and N.C. A&T Director of Athletics Earl M. Hilton III.

On Friday, the A&T Board of Trustees voted to make the move to Big South conference official. Their decision was based primarily on the report done by the ACAC. The Aggies became the second school to leave the MEAC for the Big South, joining Hampton University who first made the move in 2018.

Board of Trustees member and ACAC chairman, Timothy King (pictured above) explained the decision while addressing the media.

As our committee did its due diligence over the past year, the opportunities to positively impact the lives of our student athletes and the financial health of athletics became increasingly clear and detailed. In the end, we had compelling answers to all our questions, making our choice straightforward.”

Timothy King

Understandably, there were mixed reactions to this major announcement from NC A&T students, alumni, and supporters. Former Aggie superstar and 2018 NFC North Rookie of the Year, Tarik Cohen , voiced his opinion on Twitter:

Despite initial conerns about culture fit, NC A&T made the best decision for both the university’s bottom line and the well being of their student athletes. There are several components of the Aggies deal with the Big South that the MEAC simply can’t match. Which begs the question, has the MEAC lost it’s competitive advantage as an all-HBCU athletic conference?

Here are a few reasons the Aggies couldn’t refuse the Big South’s invitation.

Increased University Profile

The Big South Conference has an exclusive media deal with ESPN. Under this deal, games between Big South members are broadcast on several ESPN platforms for a national audience. As a member of the Big South, Hampton University has benefitted from the increased exposure. This year alone 79 of Hampton University athletic contests will be shown on ESPN, ESPNU, or the ESPN plus streaming service. NC A&T will likely appear in a similar number of contests which will help the Aggies showcase their brand to a new set of potential students and student athletes.

Reduced Travel Costs

Unlike the MEAC, all 11 members of the Big South are located in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. As a result, the Aggies will be able to significantly reduce their travel costs during league play. While this has an obvious financial impact; the impact may be even greater on the student athlete experience. Less days on the road equals more time on campus and in the classroom. There is a direct correlation between time spent in the classroom and the academic success of student athletes.

Apparel Rights

Members of the Big South are able to negoiate their own apparel deals. In the MEAC all apparel deals are orchestrated by the league office. This weakens an indidivual school’s ability to leverage their unique brand indentity for the best posibile deal. By leaving the MEAC, Hampton was able to get out of their old MEAC “one-size fits all” apparel deal and strike an independent deal with Under Armour. The new deal covers all “head to toe” apparel needs. NC A&T now has the opportunity to negotiate the best apparel deal for it’s students.

What’s Next for MEAC?

Losing another one of it’s top institutions to the Big South should be a major wake up call for the MEAC! No longer can nostalgia be the main selling point of the MEAC. The reasons Hampton and NC A&T left aren’t going away time soon. If their approach doesn’t change, don’t be surprised if you see more schools exiting the MEAC soon.

Agree or disagree with move? Let us know in the comments below!

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