Jul 2, 2010
Dr. Ingrid Wicker-McCree was beaming with excitement.
"This is a just a fantastic day," said Wicker-McCree, the director of athletics at North Carolina Central University.
Her glee stems from NCCU's return to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
NCCU was a founding member of the MEAC in 1970 but left when the conference jumped to NCAA Division I in 1979.
NCCU played at the Division II level until three years ago when the school left the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association to move to Division I. Until Thursday, the Eagles were without a conference and played as an independent.
The lack of conference affiliation meant more road games for all athletics programs. The football team played 19 games away from home the last three seasons.
The men's basketball team played more than twenty road games per year, usually against high-profile opponents, who would often pay NCCU to travel thousands of miles to play in their arena. While the "guarantee games" led to money for NCCU, wins were hard to come by.
In the MEAC, NCCU joins a league with schools more similar in size and resources, including longtime rival North Carolina A&T. "Even if there were no athletics, the institutions in the MEAC are who we would want to align with," added Wicker-McCree.
Conference affiliation means NCCU will have more home games and less strenuous travel for MEAC road games. This season, the Eagles will play seven home games. "You can't ask for more than that," said Wicker-McCree.
To earn Division I certification, Wicker-McCree said the school increased its scholarship funding from $500,000 four years ago to $1.7 million this year. The athletics department has also grown from 27 members to 52 during that time.
NCCU will be a provisional member of the MEAC in 2010-11. All sports will play a full conference schedule except for football, which has five games against MEAC opponents. NCCU will not be eligible for MEAC or NCAA championships until 2011-12.
The MEAC officially announced NCCU's conference inclusion on September 10 of last year. Savannah State is also joining to give the MEAC 14 institutions.