FAMU and Bethune-Cookman Joining SWAC in 2021


Mason Smith, Sports Editor

Hampton University left the MEAC in 2017 to join the Big South Conference the following summer. Savannah State relegated itself to Division II. North Carolina A&T State, the premier conference athletic program, will follow Hampton to the Big South in 2021. 

For the MEAC to lose so many teams in a short period is surprising, but what happened next rocked HBCU sports, as Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman universities are both leaving the MEAC to join the Southwestern Athletic Conference for the 2021-22 school year. Speculation always surrounded FAMU as to if, or when, they would switch, but the community was surprised to see Bethune-Cookman leave, especially in rapid succession. So with two MEAC powerhouses changing conferences, what does that mean for the SWAC?

First, it means the SWAC grows from 10 teams to 12 teams, which is still on the smaller side compared to Power 5 conferences like the SEC (who has 14 teams) or ACC (15 teams). However, the SWAC surpasses the Big East (10) and is now equal to the Pac-12 with a dozen teams each. FAMU and Bethune-Cookman will also be the first schools to join the SWAC in over 20 years, as Alabama A&M University was the last to join in 1999.

In regards to football, the divisions will be realigned. With both schools located in Florida, FAMU and Bethune-Cookman will join the eastern division, and Alcorn State University, which is located in Mississippi, will move to the western division, giving both sides six teams each. The primary goal with the divisional realignment was to decrease travel costs. It would put more of a financial strain on one or two Florida schools to consistently travel to Texas to play the majority of its schedules compared to a Mississippi school residing near the Louisiana border.

What may be the most exciting factor is the FAMU Marching 100 and Bethune-Cookman Marching Wildcats joining the ranks of SWAC marching bands. HBCU marching band is highly regarded, the newest members of the conference are respected for their tradition and reputation. Casual fans and marchers alike are fond of the schools’ playing style, and both parties look forward to the performances both schools will bring to SWAC stadiums. The SWAC is the largest HBCU conference in the country, and with the additions of Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman, it gets bigger and better