(Stats Perform) – The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference had more FCS programs than the Southwestern Athletic Conference – 11 to 10 – as recently as in 2017.
Next year, the SWAC could have twice as many programs – 12 to 6.
Bethune-Cookman announced Thursday it will become the latest school to depart the MEAC, joining in-state rival Florida A&M in the SWAC beginning with the 2021 season.
Bethune-Cookman, located in Daytona Beach, Florida, and a MEAC member since 1979, will join the SWAC on July 1, 2021. The Wildcats finished 7-4 last year and captured five conference titles and made three FCS playoff appearances during the 2010s decade.
“The Wildcats undoubtedly align with our core principles and strategic plan,” SWAC commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said, “and they also align with our overall vision and forward movement within our strategic plan.”
The MEAC will be losing five programs over a two-year span. Hampton left the conference for the Big South Conference last year and North Carolina A&T is headed there next year. Savannah State also left the MEAC last year to return to the Division II level.
The MEAC and the SWAC are the two Division I conferences of historically black colleges and universities. The disparity in their number of football programs could have an impact on the Celebration Bowl, which is in its sixth year and matches the champions of the two conferences each December.
The SWAC, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year, is the only FCS conference with two divisions and a conference championship game. Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M will join the membership alongside Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Prairie View A&M, Southern and Texas Southern.
The MEAC will drop to eight members, but only six play football: Delaware State, Howard, Morgan State, Norfolk State, North Carolina Central and South Carolina State. Coppin State and Maryland-Eastern Shore are the other two members.