Both Bethune Cookman and Florida A&M will become official full members effective the 2021-2022 academic year and will be immediately eligible in round-robin and single-site championship sports for SWAC titles, awards and honors and continue its eligibility for NCAA automatic qualification in these sports.
The addition of these two outstanding universities will further strengthen the SWAC’s position as the newest pre-eminent NCAA Division I baseball conference for the states in the southwestern and southeastern regions. The membership positions the baseball conference to continue growing and is a unique and exciting opportunity that allows a significant expansion and impact into a stronger Division I baseball conference that will compete and the opportunity to play at such a higher level.
BCU and FAMU are ready for the challenge and the competition of the SWAC. As for the play on the baseball diamond, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) was more of an arms race from a pitching standpoint. Team’s defensive strategy centered around the pitcher being an important element in getting batter’s out…while the SWAC played the overall offensive and defensive strategy, not in the details of fielding, and pitching alone, but revolves around the hitter.
Both Historically Black College and University (HBCU) baseball programs have recorded significant success in the classroom and in competition over the past several years, including team conference championships in the past four years, record GPA’s, Graduation Success Rates, APR scores and have achieved national attention with berth’s in the NCAA Regional Tournaments.
The Rattlers participated in the 2019 regionals. Bethune Wildcats last regional historic run stunned the Florida Gators in their first regional final during the 2017 season defeated the Gators 6-2 to force the second game in NCAA baseball regional…The Wildcats lost that game to the eventual national champions.
The move-in addition can help expand the conference with more than two teams receiving NCAA automatic qualification for postseason play. In the history of the NCAA baseball tournament, just two HBCU Baseball conference champions making regionals from the MEAC and SWAC. As the movement grew into a 12 team field within the conference division, the SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors should petition the NCAA to allow the regular-season champion and the conference championship winner into regionals that would guarantee a third team to the tournament along with the MEAC champion.
Bethune and FAMU are excited to become a member of the conference and compete against their new peer institutions that share the same absolute commitment to academic and athletic excellence. The SWAC proven record of achievement, integrity, and innovation aligns perfectly with its two new members, the student-athletes and the entire university community.
With BCU and FAMU’s switch to the SWAC, the conference will remain a member of NCAA Division I and includes Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, Alcorn State University, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University, and Texas Southern University. The conference sponsors 18 sports.
Black College Nines now takes a look at how the newly formatted 12-team conference could bring back traditional rivalries and make the sport even more interesting.
The move to the conference is a pivotal step in elevating and expanding the baseball programs. This will allow student-athletes to compete against other high-caliber competitors week-in and week-out, maintaining existing relationships with the institutions while adding BCU and FAMU keeps the existing rivalries of both schools. The SWAC also becomes part of the largest conference in all of NCAA Division I with 12 or more members joining the ranks of the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac 12, Big East, and the Sun Belt.
With BCU and FAMU joining, the SWAC could play a 28 to 32 game conference schedule that would run every weekend beginning the second week of February and run through May, culminating in a conference tournament. Teams might play a typical four-game series in three days against each conference member.
In 2020, is it possible we see a round of realignment within the division? I’ll highlight a couple of conference realignment wishes I have as if these would happen in the 2021 time frame. Here are a couple of realignment moves that would be fun to see.
Alabama A&M, Alabama State, and Jackson State stay in the East, but Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State in the West. Bethune Cookman and Florida A&M move into the East along with UAPB to intensify the rivalries would provide an even bigger benefit and make a path to the SWAC playoff and conference title tougher, but it would provide four elite programs in the division that badly needs one besides ASU and JSU… sorry Alcorn.
So the West would make the most sense. Southern, Texas Southern, Grambling State, Prairie View A&M, now adding Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State would be fun to put those two in the same division, but more realistic is Southern, TSU, and Grambling, they could build on recent accomplishments.
Bethune and FAMU stretch the conference eastward. They are in Florida, a recruiting baseball rich area. Historic rivalries and geographic proximity, overall, this is addition by subtraction for the SWAC. Two of the weaker teams gone but a more historically and geographically cohesive division is a win while expanding.
Bethune Cookman and Florida A&M’s move to the Southwestern Athletic Conference is one that is in the best interest of both. It maintains long-term rivalries and opportunities to generate revenue. The SWAC would be more exciting to watch.
It is interesting to note that with the addition of BCU and FAMU, the total student enrollment of the SWAC member institutions will increase from 48,029 to 61,823 and lower the total undergraduate population of colleges in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference from 62,374 total to 48,580 undergraduate students. Florida A&M had the second most students in the MEAC with over 10,000 undergraduates. Information was obtained by a table comparing 2018-2019 undergraduate enrollment between the colleges in both conferences.