North Carolina A&T football
Photo: North Carolina A&T Athletics

A little over two years after announcing its departure from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, North Carolina Agricultural and State University leaders will consider a move to the Colonial Athletic Association.

The board’s Executive Committee on Thursday received an extensive presentation on the matter from Intercollegiate Athletics Director Earl Hilton. The committee voted unanimously, 8 – 0, in support of his recommendation that A&T accept the CAA’s invitation to join, and forwarded the matter to the full board for further consideration.

Also read: Hampton officially added to CAA as ‘next step in the evolution’ of athletic program

“My recommendation is that we accept this invitation,” said Hilton, adding that it “was not an invitation we solicited or expected.” Nevertheless, Hilton said the university had an obligation to current and future students to consider it, once it was extended.

Hilton shared with Trustees that the CAA opened a dialogue with A&T in November 2021 and subsequently extended its invitation.

A&T informed the CAA and the Big South Conference — A&T’s current athletics conference — that it would evaluate the invitation “in a deliberate and data-driven manner.”

Over the past two months, that evaluation has taken place through an exhaustive compilation of data, interviews with students, athletics staff, alumni, boosters and Hall of Fame members and additional fact finding.

The analysis revealed strong institutional, academic and athletics alignment with prospective CAA peer campuses, as well as schools that represent aspirational standards in research and academic profiles.

The CAA has a total of six campuses classified as R1 or R2 doctoral research universities by the Carnegie Foundation.

A&T is currently classified R2, with publicly expressed aspirations to ascend to R1. The Big South has no R1 or R2 campuses other than A&T.

It also showed that the CAA’s organizational model would maintain advantages in travel that made the Big South a good fit, requiring students to spend less time on the road and the university to spend less money transporting them from competition site to site. Support among A&T athletics constituents for the move was strong – as high as 85%.

Hilton cited as significant the recent departure of four football schools from the Big South, dropping its current number of football programs to five. A conference must have at least six football programs to maintain automatic qualifying or AQ for Bowl Championship Series bowl games.

He also spoke to a national shake-up in how athletics revenues are divided among schools and conferences that has prompted an all-time high of 47 institutions to announce conference changes in the current school year. The strong opportunity that the CAA represents now may not be available in the future, Hilton explained.

If the move is approved, all sports teams would move to the CAA July 1, 2022, except football and bowling. Football would move in July 1, 2023 to avoid negative financial impact that an earlier departure would cause. Bowling would maintain its affiliation with the MEAC.

Courtesy: North Carolina A&T



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