The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees unanimously approved the move for the Rattlers from the Mideastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC); the SWAC will now become the premiere conference in college football. Some may even debate that the SWAC now has enough to overtake the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and other Power 5 conferences as the most entertaining conference in all of college football with the addition of FAMU.
FAMU will join the SWAC with 16 Division I sports programs, led by the youngest athletic director in Division I, Kortne Gosha. He was hired back in December 2019 as FAMU’s VP and Director of Athletics. Gosha traded in his University of Miami orange and green for the orange and green of Florida A&M. He spent the previous year as the associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Operations at the University of Miami.
“My first priority as athletic director is the student-athlete experience. Some of the challenges that we faced as an institution was having a very large footprint of travel,” said Gosh. “We also looked into the financial details and like most historically black colleges and universities; we’ve got to find ways to be efficient with our resources. We just did the math and I mean, geographically, SWAC makes the most sense.”
College football year in and year out is a billion dollar industry. The sport has long been the primary athletics revenue source for schools across the country. The addition of FAMU to the SWAC is important for the Black Community especially with the history of HBCU football as it relates to funding and exposure compared to PWIs(Predominately White Institutions). With FAMU in the mix, the SWAC can anticipate revenue to increase and attendance to increase as well. This is now an opportunity for more partnerships from a media standpoint and a sponsorship standpoint with larger brands as well.
Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, black colleges like Grambling and Southern and Alabama A&M which are all members of the SWAC had top-five talent nationally simply because these were the only schools blacks were allowed to attend before PWIs started integration. Once these PWIs started recruiting athletes in areas that traditionally produced elite HBCU talent, it started showing on the field and in the revenue.
SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland spoke on the addition to having FAMU in the SWAC.
“Florida A&M travels and when our institutions travel to Florida A&M, you know it’s going to be competitive, you know, it’s going to be exciting,” stated McClelland. “So some have said it’s going to be the start of a mega-super black college conference. I won’t go that far, but I can tell you we’re pretty strong right now and we’re happy and sufficient that Florida A&M has allowed us in with bringing that large and strong of a brand to the already strong brands that we have.”
FAMU football coach Willie Simmons is also thrilled about the shift and hopes FAMU will be able to add to SWAC’s rich history of black college football.
“When you think of FCS football, in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, there’s a reason they’ve led the nation in attendance 42 of the last 43 years,” said Simmons who added that the SWAC has a tremendous fan following and some of the most historic football programs in the country.
“If you look at programs like Grambling State University with Eddie Robinson and Southern University with Coach Mumford, Alcorn State with coach Marino Casem and the list goes on and on,” Simmons explalined.
"The SWAC has also produced tons of NFL Hall of Famer, NFL players and college football Hall of Famers. So, from a traditional standpoint, the SWAC rivals anyone and we feel like our brand here at Florida A&M is the same and so we feel like it’s a perfect marriage.”
After 41 years, the time has come for the end of an era between Florida A&M and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Florida A&M will officially leave the MEAC on June 30, 2021 and join the SWAC on July 1, 2021.