HBCU basketball conferences have historically been regulated to one-bid leagues in pursuit of berths in the NCAA Tournament.
As it has stood in recent years, schools representing the MEAC and SWAC have only been able to enter the field of 68 by way of the automatic bid through conference championship wins.
But that might soon change.
A proposed change to March Madness could include more Division I HBCUs in the tournament in future seasons.
The NCAA Transformation Committee, a group of college sports leaders tasked with reshaping NCAA policies, released a 40-page report on Tuesday that suggested expanding the field in postseason championships to 25% of participating teams.
For men’s basketball, that would mean expanding the current field of 68 teams — which accounts for 18.7% of the 363 programs — to as many as 90 teams.
The recommendation is not an official change. According to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, the Division I board of directors for consideration at the 2023 NCAA convention in San Antonio next week, then will be reviewed and determined by the individual oversight and governance groups of a particular sport.
An initial review by committees will happen by June 2023 and final recommendations will take place by January 2024 for implementation in the 2024–25 championship, according to the report.
If approved, that could mean more MEAC and SWAC schools in the NCAA Tournament.
The report comes at a time when SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland was recently appointed to chair the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2023-24 season. McClelland, who has been on the committee since 2019, will be the vice chair for the upcoming season, supporting incoming chair Chris Reynolds, the director of athletics at Bradley.
The success of SWAC basketball in non-conference play has given credence, said McClelland, that the conference can compete outside of its footprint.
“Given our ability to play those games early on when we’re at our best, we’re fresh not on the road, we can compete,” said McClelland. “Our brand is a lot better.”