This one is personal. My beloved Aggies of North Carolina A&T have announced that they will be leaving for what is hopefully greener pastures in the Big South Conference after this upcoming season. They have been members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference since 1971, comprised of Historically Black Colleges and Universities since that time. There were always rumors and suspicions that A&T could make the move to another conference primarily due to the success of their football and track teams competing and excelling, but now that it is official, I am just not sure how to feel.
A&T is a special place. Always ranked in the top-10 of HBCU’s, Aggie Pride stays in the hearts of its alum and in the envy of its distractors. When you come to 1601 East Market Street in Greensboro, North Carolina, you cannot help but get that blue and gold all over you. When I came to “T” in 1997, it was at choice of turning down opportunities to play football at other smaller schools within the state, but quickly I saw that it was not possible to walk on because quite simply, I was not talented enough.
But what I witnessed was football at its best, under the leadership of Head Coach Bill Hayes, Quarterback Ben Garrett, and now Hall of Famer Chris McNeil. It probably was the springboard to me even covering sports but it was a show each and every Saturday. What made it especially phenomenal was the rivalries that came about from the likes of Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman “College”, Howard, and of course North Carolina Central. Having those bragging rights every year for MEAC supremacy was what we lived for.
I simply do not know what to feel about this move to the Big South. I fully understand the pros of the move with more national exposure, getting into the New York-New Jersey Markets, and being in playoff contention. However, with this move, I just wonder if what made HBCU Sports so great will go out the window. There is no question to me that A&T will never lose its “Blackness”, the Greatest Homecoming On Earth is still intact, but the united front with other institutions that make HBCU’s unique, feels disjointed. While I have no permanent judgments on the move, I trust that my institution knows what it is doing for both the preservation of Aggie Sports and for HBCU’s in general.