Hampton University athletic teams to leave MEAC, join Big South Conference

Hampton Pirates

HAMPTON, Va. - In 2018, as Hampton University celebrates the 150th anniversary of the institution's founding, HU's athletic teams will mark the occasion by writing a new chapter in the athletic department's storied history.

In a move announced Thursday, Hampton University athletic teams will leave the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and begin play in the Big South Conference. The move will take effect for the 2018-19 academic year.

"“The move to the Big South Conference is just another part of an exciting year at Hampton University,” Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey said. "Institutions in the Big South are located in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, which means that our student athletes will spend less time traveling and more time in classes on campus."

Big South conference

Founded in 1983, the Big South is comprised of 10 member institutions from three states (Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina) sharing a common geographic region and similar academic values and purposes, according to its website. Headquartered in Charlotte, the league boasts 10 member institutions: Campbell University, Charleston Southern University, Gardner-Webb University, High Point University, Liberty University, Longwood University, Presbyterian College, Radford University, UNC Asheville and Winthrop University. Kennesaw State (football), Monmouth (football) and North Alabama (football - 2019) are associate members of the conference. Coastal Carolina, now a member of the Sun Belt Conference, won the NCAA Division I baseball national title as a member of the Big South in 2016.

The league sponsors 19 championship sports and cites a goal of becoming the premiere non-FBS conference in the Southeast. Like the MEAC, the Big South's football teams compete in Division one's football championship subdivision (FCS). Liberty's football program will leave the Big South in 2018 and reclassify as a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) independent. Campbell University, currently playing football in the Pioneer Football League, will being playing football in the Big South in 2018.

“This is a big day for the Big South!  We are so pleased that Hampton University is joining the Big South family,” Big South Commissioner Kyle Kallander said.  "The Big South is a better conference with Hampton – athletically, academically, and in providing outstanding opportunities for our student-athletes.”

Only six members of the conference (Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, Kennesaw State, Liberty, Monmouth and Presbyterian) compete in football.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

In 1995, Hampton joined the MEAC, a league founded in 1971. The MEAC, based in Norfolk, is made up of 13 historically black institutions along the Atlantic coastline: Bethune-Cookman University, Coppin State University, Delaware State University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Howard University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Morgan State University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, Savannah State University and South Carolina State University.

" We have enjoyed our 22-year relationship with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and hope to continue competing against some of its teams," Harvey said.

The MEAC sponsors 15 NCAA Division I sports. Maryland Eastern Shore's women's bowling team (2008, 2011, 2012) boasts the league's lone NCAA national titles.

Hampton's longtime conference rival, Norfolk State, left the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) to join the MEAC in 1997, two  years after the Pirates jumped ship. Those two years mark the only stretch in each athletic program's history during which HU and NSU were not in the same conference.

The Battle of the Bay, Norfolk State and Hampton's annual football game, has been played annually since 1963. NSU leads the all-time series 28-26-1.

Hampton claimed MEAC conference titles in football (1998, 2004-06), basketball (2001, 2002, 2006, 2011, 2015, 2016), women's basketball (2000, 2003, 2004, 2010-14, 2017), cross country (1996), men's indoor track and field (2003, 2014), men's outdoor track and field (1996, 2003, 2004, 2013), men's tennis (1996-99, 2002, 2003, 2007), softball (1996, 2013), volleyball (2013, 2014), women's cross country (2004, 2006, 2010, 2011), women's indoor track and field (2001, 2003-09, 2011-16), women's outdoor track and field (2002-04, 2006-10, 2012-14), and women's tennis (1996, 1998, 2002-04).