The Florida A&M Rattlers are leaving the MEAC for the SWAC. The Board of Trustees at Florida A&M officially voted to leave on Thursday after the pending move was reported earlier this week. It was a unanimous decision by the Board of Trustees.
The SWAC confirmed the news on Thursday evening stating that Florida A&M would join the conference beginning with the 2021-22 academic year. Florida A&M also confirmed the news on Thursday evening.
The Board of Trustees cited the lower travel costs and higher revenues as part of the reasons to leave. Joining the SWAC will also rekindle some of the historical HBCU rivalries, which also factors into the move. Florida A&M will have to pay an exit fee of $250,000 to the MEAC although this fee can rise to $500,000 if FAMU does not meet all the requirements.
Florida A&M will not have to pay an exit fee to the SWAC if they decided to leave in the future.
One stipulation that remains is whether Florida A&M will have to play a 4-year MEAC schedule after leaving as required in the contract. This clause appeared after Hampton left the conference in 2018. North Carolina A&T faced the same issue, however, they reportedly paid an additional, unknown amount to the MEAC to get out of the clause. The conference and school can also agree not to apply the clause as well.
Florida A&M joins the recent MEAC departures of the Hampton Pirates (2018), Savannah State Tigers (2019), and North Carolina A&T Aggies. Hampton left for the Big South Conference while Savannah State dropped to the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The Aggies voted to leave the MEAC in February and will be joining Hampton in the Big South starting in 2021.
Florida A&M would also leave the MEAC starting with the 2021 season. Only 7 teams will remain in the MEAC as football schools: Bethune-Cookman, Delaware State, Howard, Morgan State, Norfolk State, North Carolina Central, and South Carolina State.
While there is obvious excitement over Florida A&M joining the SWAC, there are still some questions that need to be answered and not all are easy.
- Florida A&M will bring the SWAC membership up to 11. Will the SWAC continue with 11 members or pursue a 12th team to join the conference?
- What will become of the MEAC? Which schools will the MEAC target to join in order to bolster their ranks? The departure of four teams in three years does not bode well, to say the least. The future of the MEAC does not look bright at all.
- What will happen to the 7 remaining MEAC teams? They will have to find a home elsewhere if the MEAC dissolves. That may be the Big South, independent status, or a drop to the Division II level.
- Will this start a larger domino effect? Or will it be contained to the MEAC/SWAC teams? If the MEAC dissolves, how will its AQ to the FCS Playoffs be allocated? What happens to the Celebration Bowl between the MEAC and SWAC Champions?
These questions, and many others not yet envisioned, will be answered in time.
Photo courtesy of Florida A&M University Athletics.
Evening 6/4/20 edit: Added the links to the SWAC and Florida A&M statements.