By Marty Gordon
North Carolina A&T, which officially joined the Big South Conference this past year, has announced plans to jump to the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA).
The Greensboro school issued the following statement:
“All North Carolina A&T sports teams and student athletes will begin competing in the CAA as of July 1, 2022, except for football and bowling. Football will move July 1, 2023, to avoid impact on the Big South Conference’s automatic qualifier status for participation in the FCS postseason playoffs.”
The North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Board of Trustees on Friday unanimously approved a recommendation that the university join the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), perhaps the most prominent athletic conference in the nation among Football Championship Series (FCS) institutions.
Despite the geographic diversity of CAA conference members, the new affiliation promises to enhance student-athlete welfare and keep financial costs low through the conference’s North and South divisions. A&T’s competition will largely be limited to South Division campuses, all of which are located in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia (In football, Maryland-based Towson University will also compete in the South Division).
CAA opened a dialogue with A&T in November 2021 and subsequently extended an invitation to join. A&T informed the CAA and the Big South that it would evaluate the invitation “in a deliberate and data-driven manner.”
Over the past two months, that evaluation has taken place through a compilation of data,
interviews with students, athletics staff, alumni, boosters and Hall of Fame members and additional fact-finding. Support among A&T athletics constituents for the move was strong.
In making the presentation that prompted the vote, Athletics Director Earl Hilton offered the case that the CAA represents where North Carolina A&T stands, academically and athletically, as a highly competitive doctoral research university. “We are pleased to be joining a conference of similarly focused institutions,” said Board of Trustees Chairwoman Hilda Pinnix-Ragland.
Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle Kallander said while losing members anytime is disappointing, the conference understands these are institutional business decisions that aren’t necessarily driven by athletics.
“The Big South Conference is a strong and stable league that will continue to provide opportunities for national athletics success for its student-athletes and teams. Whenever membership changes, someone always rises to the occasion, and this time will be no different,” he said.
Longtime Big South member Radford University had no comment on the decision. NC A&T joined the Big South in 2021 and had been lauded as the perfect new member for the league because of its geographic distance relative to most of the conference schools.