The MEAC Era of North Carolina A&T men’s basketball is over.
North Carolina A&T had a positive COVID-19 test in its men’s basketball program, forcing it to opt-out of the MEAC basket tournament. That means the winner of Thursday night’s contest between Norfolk State and North Carolina Central will automatically advance to Saturday’s MEAC Final. A&T was scheduled to play the winner of the game Friday night at 8:30 PM EST.
“My heart aches so much for these young men,” said NC A&T AD Earl Hilton. “To get to this point and have it taken away before we even get a chance to play is devastating. I am proud of the leadership our coaching staff showed. I am proud of our training staff for all the dedication they exhibited, and I am proud of our student-athletes. They did everything we asked of them. The global pandemic has proven to be unpredictable, and its outcomes are often cruel.”
N.C. A&T’s season comes to an end at 11-10. A&T had traveled to Norfolk hoping to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. It will leave the MEAC with a total of 17 men’s basketball championships, far and away the most in conference history. This also marks the second year A&T’s season has ended due to COVID. A&T had advanced to the 2019-2020 season semifinals in last year’s tournament before the MEAC Tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament was shut down.
“I have no words for the news we received today,” said N.C. A&T coach Wil Jones who came into the tournament with a 20-5 record versus MEAC competition. “To not be able to allow these kids a chance to compete is a feeling I can’t explain. Aggie Nation we must rally behind these players. We must celebrate this group. They have done their best to protect the Aggie brand this season.”
North Carolina A&T will officially move to the Big South on July 1, 2021. The upcoming conference switch will end a 50-year affiliation with the conference it helped found after leaving the CIAA.