By Jarrett Carter
It was hard to visualize just a few months ago how a historically Black Division I athletic conference would lose five teams and not lose its commissioner, but the prophecy of the obvious came to pass yesterday as long-serving Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner Dennis Thomas announced plans to retire in December.
Some MEAC fans will look at Thomas’ departure as an overdue exit. The departures of North Carolina A&T State University, Hampton University, Florida A&M University, and Bethune-Cookman University had already underscored a growing discontent with the conference and its inability to maximize the reach of its member schools’ brands from Florida to Delaware.
But there were many accomplishments. In 19 years at the helm, Thomas was part of the leadership that brokered two nationally televised annual football games between the MEAC and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, steered as the conference pulled into new harbors of corporate dollars moving towards HBCU programs, and he was in charge as the league pushed into televised competition across cable and digital networks.
He is the longest-tenured commissioner in league history for a reason, and it’s because he successfully achieved his number one objective as a commissioner; don’t let the conference fold. But there are questions about his departure that raise concern.
Jarrett Carter is the founding editor of the HBCU Digest. He is a 2003 graduate of Morgan State University.