Hampton University becomes first HBCU to join the Colonial Athletic Association

Hampton University becomes first HBCU to join the Colonial Athletic Association

Dr. William Harvey’s plan of 35 years has been for Hampton University’s athletic programs to join the Colonial Athletic Association, Pirates’ director of athletics Eugene Marshall Jr. said.

Harvey, who will retire this year after 44 years as HU’s president, has finally seen his plan come to fruition.

Hampton University announced Tuesday that it joined the CAA as a full member, effective July 1. Hampton becomes the first historically Black college and university (HBCU) in the history of the CAA, which was established in 1979 and is headquartered in Richmond.

The addition Tuesday to the CAA of Hampton, Stony Brook (N.Y.) and Monmouth (N.J.) – which, like Hampton, is exiting the Big South Conference following the academic year – gives the conference 12 full-time members. James Madison, a charter member of the CAA, announced this fall that it is leaving for the Sun Belt.

Other current full-time members of the CAA are William & Mary, College of Charleston (S.C.), Delaware, Drexel (Pa.), Elon (N.C.), Hofstra (N.Y.), Northeastern (Mass.), Towson (Md.) and North Carolina-Wilmington. Those schools, Hampton, Monmouth and Stony Brook give the CAA 12 schools competing for the men’s and women’s basketball titles.

Richmond, Albany (N.Y.), Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Stony Brook and Villanova (Pa.) played football in the CAA this past season as associate members. Full-time members Hampton, William & Mary, Delaware, Elon, Monmouth and Towson also field football teams as the CAA expands to 13 schools in that sport.

“The move to the Colonial Athletic Association is the next step in the evolution of Hampton University athletics,” Dr. Harvey said. “Several institutions in the CAA are located in our geographical footprint, which means that our student-athletes will continue to spend less time traveling and more time in classes on campus.

“This move continues to keep the proper focus on academics, which is our reason for being. The conference’s geographical footprint, as well as the occasional contests against institutions in the northeast, will reduce travel expenses while allowing for competition in several of the nation’s top media markets.”

It should also increase athletic ticket sales. Hampton’s move in 2018 from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to the Big South was noteworthy because it made it only the second HBCU not playing in one of the two all-HBCU-schools Division-I conferences (the MEAC and SWAC).

But Peninsula-area fans weaned on HU’s rivalries against MEAC and HBCU schools like Norfolk State cared little about the mostly North Carolina- and South Carolina-based schools of the Big South, which the Pirates had rarely ever played. With a natural rival in William & Mary in all sports just a 30-minute drive on I-64 and Richmond a more frequent football opponent, HU schedules become immediately more attractive.

“Being an HBCU is a badge of honor,” Marshall said. “I think for many years, some people associated HBCUs in an unfavorable light, but, what they’re finding out with all the focus on HBCUs, is that we have some of the brightest students and student-athletes in this country.

“Like Monmouth and Stony Brook, which are public schools (HU is a private institution) everybody has a chance to better ourselves and I think we did. Under Dr. Harvey’s leadership, we mapped out a plan (to join the CAA) and I’m ecstatic about it because there are a lot of similar academic schools, and we have strong alumni bases where (almost all) CAA schools are located.

“We love that William & Mary and Richmond are close, because we’ve (long) been rivals with them academically and athletically. I think it’s a natural rivalry and we play them in different sports, anyway. I like it and I think it’s going to be a windfall because we’ll have more people at games.”

CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio lauded the addition of the three new schools.

“All three schools fit perfectly into the framework of the conference’s vision,” he said in a release. “The CAA is excited for what the future holds and will continue to be focused on making decisions that ensure its membership is a competitive and sustainable model.”

Marshall added, “The CAA’s history and tradition, both athletically and academically align perfectly with the ideals and core values of our visionary president, Dr. Harvey, who believes in building leaders and champions in the classroom and (on) the field of play.

“His legacy is that he’s always looked after the total student athlete: academically, athletically and personally. This shows he’s gotten the athletic piece on par with the academic piece because of the type of universities we’ll be competing against.”

Marty O’Brien, 757-247-4963, Twitter: @MartyOBrienDP