The Florida A&M Rattlers will be leaving the MEAC for the SWAC beginning in 2021-22. The move became official after the Board of Trustees voted in favor of the switch unanimously. The Rattlers are ending a 39-year run in the MEAC, last representing the league in the NCAA Tournament in 2007.
SWAC Gains Florida A&M Rattlers as Members
How the School Got Here
The athletic department gave a presentation to the Board of Trustees at a meeting earlier this week. It was based on a study done that concluded the university “would be best served financially and athletically” to switch their conference membership. It should be no surprise, however, the finances were a big driver in the argument.
One of the biggest finances that most schools take on across all sports is travel. Florida A&M was traveling and spending the most on travel among all MEAC schools in conference competition. Rattler teams were traveling a minimum of 450 miles one way to member institutions, including four trips that were approximately 900 miles or more. Furthermore, conference championships occur in the northeast because of the large number of members located in Virginia.
However, the biggest argument determined that the SWAC is a better-run conference that is smart with its money with respect to its members. Essentially, the SWAC provides more revenue opportunities that total $1.4 million. Distribution among member schools in the league is also much higher.
Florida A&M Rattlers Outlook
This is a great move for the school. Regionally, this makes sense. The members of the SWAC primarily stretch from Alabama to Texas, with the longest one-way trip totaling 756 miles. However, from a brand and publicity standpoint, it is even better.
Florida A&M has a national brand that can be added to the existing ones in the SWAC. This includes Southern, Grambling, and Jackson State. Because of this, the SWAC gets more media coverage. Now, Florida A&M’s brand can get more exposure. According to the report by the school, their brand presence on ESPN had three times more views than any other MEAC member. From a basketball perspective, the program has not had a winning season since its last NCAA appearance in 2007. Hopefully, they can be more competitive with this switch.
The bad news only gets worse for the league. Hampton left for the Big South a few years ago, and North Carolina A&T announced their intention to do the same back in February. This adds to the fact that the league has seen Savannah State and Winston-Salem State return to Division II in the last 15 years, citing financial issues as the reason.
The most damning line in Florida A&M’s report says that “the SWAC offers FAMU an opportunity to be in a conference that is operationally stable and set with members who are committed to the long-term stability of the conference.”
While the Rattlers’ move makes sense on a multitude of levels, they are certainly not holding back in how they feel about the league. The final line of the report reads, “GO WIN THE MEAC IN EVERYTHING and join the SWAC in 2021!!!” And, that is the decision that was ultimately made.