July 1 marks the start of a new era for the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) as it welcomes four new institutions — including two HBCUs.
Hampton University and North Carolina A&T State University officially joined the CAA on Friday along with Monmouth and Stony Brook.
Both HBCUs are making the move over from the Big South after relatively short stints in that league. Hampton joined the BSC in 2018 while A&T flipped that switch on just over a year ago. The two universities were both members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference prior to joining the Big South and before that in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
The move was a long-time coming for Hampton, whose outgoing president Dr. William Harvey told HBCU Gameday he had been eyeing the league for over 30 years. After several unsuccessful attempts to get in over that time, HU was finally able to announce its move in January 2021.
Less than a month later, North Carolina A&T AD Earl Hilton arrived at a board of trustees meeting with a recommendation of joining the CAA — supported by a data-driven analysis on why the move was a good one. The BOT approved A&T’s acceptance of the CAA invite and moving to its third conference in as many years.
Like Hampton, A&T will be a full conference member — but with two exceptions. Its bowling program will remain on the MEAC. Football will compete as a member of the Big South in 2022 before joining the CAA in 2023.
It appeared earlier in the year that Howard would be joining its two long-time HBCU rivals in a third conference next July, but HU decided not to make the move.
Even without Howard, the CAA has two HBCUs with high academic and athletics achievements wearing its colors. Both institutions will have to put more into their programs financially to compete in the new league, regarded as one of the best FCS/Mid-Major conferences — even without recently departed James Madison.
Conference re-alignment continues to transform the landscape, and HBCUs will likely continue to be a part of that.