MEAC commissioner Sonja Stills on Tuesday dismissed reports that Howard University was moving to the Colonial Athletic Conference affirming that the school remained committed to staying in the league.
“It’s funny that the rumors have taken on a light of their own, Stills said during an appearance on Inside the HBCU Sports Lab. “They have just taken off. And so one of the things is there isn’t a lot of truth to the rumors.”
The statement was in response to multiple reports late last month that indicated Howard was preparing to join to CAA for the 2023-24 season. In preliminary expansion conversations in 2021, the CAA reportedly had eyed both Hampton and Howard as potential members.
Hampton, which is currently a member of the Big South, accepted an invitation in January to join the CAA.
Stills also mentioned that the MEAC expects Howard to release a statement in the near future to “reaffirm the commitment” to the conference.
“… Howard has repeatedly stated their commitment to the conference,” said Stills. “We really hate to talk about that again and again because we’re ready to move forward. We’re ready to look at different and bigger things and you know, I want to make history. So that’s what I want to focus on.”
Also read: Report: Howard to bolt MEAC, join Colonial Athletic Conference
Acknowledging that conference realignment was an issue the league would have to face, Still explained the league — which currently has eight members — is entrenched in solidarity as part of the so-called MEAC “Elite Eight.”
“…They have said over and over again that they’re committed to the stability of the conference. And that’s important. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think that we had the commitment of the eight.
“These eight are committed to the stability of the conference and how we move forward together, how can we grow together (and how) that’s going to benefit the eight institutions. So I would hope that we can move forward.”
Stills also addressed the future of MEAC expansion, including the pursuit of Chicago State University.
“We always have expansion in mind, but you have to remember that we don’t want to just grab institutions,” she said. “You want to make sure that they’re going to fit us — our mission, athletically (and) academically. We have to fit.”
A tweet published by Major Madness Monday night indicated that school presidents voted 6-2 against adding Chicago State University to the MEAC.
Last month, MEAC athletic directors reportedly voted 7-1 to admit Chicago State into the conference.
CSU currently is a member of the Western Athletic Conference and carries 15 total sports.
A spokesperson for Chicago State contacted by HBCU Sports said in a statement the MEAC was one of several Division I conferences it “had productive meetings towards finding a new conference home for Chicago State Athletics.”
Stills said Chicago State “is just one of the institutions that we’ve had numerous conversations with” in regards to adding a new member.
“We have to do our job in vetting institutions to ensure and they have to do that on their side to ensure that this is going to be the right fit,” she said. “Is this the right time for us to expand? And so, again, we can’t just be adding schools without it fitting into the strategic plan that we have as a conference.”