NEW ORLEANS – The Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) has extended membership to Wilberforce University (Ohio), beginning in the 2024-2025 academic year. Wilberforce received a unanimous vote from the GCAC’s Council of Presidents in September 2023 and will officially join the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) only HBCU conference on July 1, 2024.
“We are elated to have Wilberforce in our conference,” said GCAC Commissioner Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes. “Adding members strengthens our ability to execute every aspect of our strategic plan and own the narrative of HBCU excellence.”
As the only Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) conference within the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the GCAC represents a vibrant community of like-minded institutions committed to empowering student-athletes through exceptional educational experiences.
Wilberforce University President Vann R. Newkirk expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “Currently, Wilberforce University has few regional rivalries. This impacts fan interest and the ability of the University to garner the interest of students. Joining an all-HBCU conference allows graduates of the institution to rekindle relations with schools that the University historically had rivalries. It also allows us to tap into regional HBCU alumni bases and thus increase our ability to earn a few dollars to support our athletic programs. Finally, for our students, it allows them to participate against similarly funded programs and to attend games against familiar teams.”
Under the visionary leadership of Dr. KiKi Baker Barnes, the first Black woman commissioner, the GCAC has undergone a remarkable revival and expansion, growing from six in 2021 to ten members in 2023. This growth has solidified the conference’s standing as a beacon of excellence, fostering a nurturing environment that embraces diversity, inclusivity, and high achievement.
“We don’t expect to earn millions like the big schools, but we know that at our level every penny counts, and running an athletic program is a business,” stated President Newkirk. “This move will energize our alumni base which in turn will help us to increase attendance and overall interest in the University.”
Wilberforce University, founded in 1856, is the nation’s oldest, private, historically black University owned and operated by African Americans. By joining the GCAC, Wilberforce University will engage in spirited competition against other exceptional HBCUs, further showcasing the remarkable talent and resilience of its student-athletes.
“We are excited about being a part of the GCAC,” said Wilberforce Director of Athletics John Hill. “Wilberforce has excellence, and joining the GCAC gives us the opportunity to display that. We are building on a multitude of levels and this energy is one of those levels. We want to engage further and this is a way to bridge the gap between the university and the community.”
As Wilberforce University joins the GCAC, a new chapter of excellence is poised to unfold. This partnership promises to bring forth an array of exciting athletic competitions, foster academic growth, and empower student-athletes to reach their full potential, both on and off the field.
For more information about Bulldogs Athletics, visit wilberforcebulldogs.com. To learn more about the GCAC, visit gcaconf.com.