Florida A&M’s board of trustees on Thursday formally approved the Rattlers’ move from the MEAC to the SWAC.
The all-sports move will become official in time for the 2021 football season, ending a nearly four-decade run of MEAC mebership.
“Florida A&M University is a great fit for the Southwestern Athletic Conference,” said Dr. Andrew Hugine, President of Alabama A&M University and Chairman of the SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors. “FAMU’s strong athletics history, academic mission, along with its location within our natural geographical footprint made this a perfect unification for Florida A&M University and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.”
“FAMU boast a strong loyal base of alumni, fans, and supporters and they have shown a collective commitment to excellence in all facets,” added Hugine. “We welcome the Rattlers to the SWAC and look forward to many years of high-level competition with them as a member of our conference.”
“After talking to the commissioner of the SWAC and understanding the vision of where he’s trying to take his conference. I feel comfortable in endorsing the move to the Southwestern Athletic Conference today,” FAMU alumni association president Greg Clark told WFSU. “I think this is a big move, big things are happening at Florida A&M University. This is a big decision that our alumni and our constituents want and will wholeheartedly endorse.”
Florida A&M originally joined the MEAC in 1979. The Rattlers are the third MEAC school to defect for greener pastures and the fourth overall to leave the league in recent years. Hampton left for the Big South in 2018, and North Carolina A&T will join them in that league in 2021. Savannah State dropped down to Division II in 2018.
It’s a move that would compare to Florida State leaving the ACC to the SEC, at least on the football field. The Rattlers claim 15 black national championships, most recently in 2019. They won the Division I-AA national title in 1978, making FAMU the only HBCU to win an NCAA Division I title.
The Rattlers went 9-2 and won the MEAC South Division under head coach Willie Simmons, but NCAA sanctions barred the team from competing in the postseason.
Florida A&M will presumably join the SWAC’s East Division, pitting the Rattlers against Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State.
With NC A&T and FAMU on their way out, the MEAC will be down to nine full-time members and seven football-playing schools.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.