The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees has unanimously approved the recommendation of VP/ Athletic Director Kortne Gosha to resign membership from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) to accept membership into the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The Rattlers will maintain membership in the MEAC for the 2020-21 season. The move was approved by SWAC membership unanimously, 10-0, on June 4, 2020.
“While we have had a long-standing relationship competing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Florida A&M’s impending move to the Southwestern Athletic Conference is one that is in the best interest of the University,” President Dr. Larry Robinson said. “The positive impacts on student-athletes, cost savings, re-establishment of long-term rivalries and opportunities to generate revenue are among the key factors in this decision.”
“Today is a defining moment in the history of Florida A&M University and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics,” Gosha said. “Our decision to explore this move to the SWAC was the result of exhaustive internal and external collaboration. I want to first thank President Dr. Larry Robinson for his leadership and unwavering support of athletics and our 329 student-athletes.
“I also want to thank our Board Chair Kelvin Lawson, our Board of Trustees, our National Alumni Association President Colonel Greg Clark, FAMU Foundation Board Chair Jemal Gibson and Selvin Cobb of the Rattler Boosters for their support of this move. I firmly believe that we have collectively positioned FAMU to reach our ultimate potential and further enhance the student-athlete experience. We appreciate the leadership of Dr. Dennis Thomas as MEAC Commissioner and all that they have done for FAMU and Division I HBCU athletics. We hold dear the relationships with our MEAC peer institutions and we wish them continued success.”
A penalty of $250,000, which is the exit fee from the conference, will be taken from FAMU’s expected 2020 distribution from the conference.
The SWAC, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala. includes Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Grambling State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Prairie View A&M, Southern University, Texas Southern and Arkansas Pine Bluff.
Florida A&M has had a rich, competitive tradition against members of the SWAC, including rivalries with Alabama State, Grambling State, Jackson State and Southern University.
FAMU becomes the first new member of the SWAC since 1999, when Alabama A&M joined.
The university’s athletics history dates back to 1907 as an independent member. Florida A&M stayed independent until 1925 and joined the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) from 1926-1978. The university left the SIAC for the MEAC in 1979, but only stayed in the conference until 1983. FAMU became an NCAA Division I Independent from 1984-1985, before rejoining the MEAC in 1986.
During the rich athletic tradition of the university, FAMU has won 15 Black College Football National Championships, including most recently in 2019. Florida A&M also holds the distinction of being the first and only HBCU to win the FCS National Championship (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) in 1978. On the hardwood, FAMU men’s basketball has won four conference championships and made three NCAA National Tournament appearances, the last being in 2007.
Florida A&M is the alma mater for many notable athletic alumni, such as former Major League Baseball great Vince Coleman, MLB Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, tennis legend Althea Gibson, Olympic Gold Medalist “Bullet” Bob Hayes, former MLB player and manager Hal McRae, former track and field sprinter and current sportscaster Pam Oliver, former NFL and Super Bowl champion Nate Newton and former NFL player Ken Riley.