Four MEAC Baseball Programs Join NEC As Associate Members

The four baseball-playing members of the MEAC—Coppin State, Delaware State, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Norfolk State—will together move to the NEC for baseball, starting this spring. The MEAC will no longer sponsor baseball, bringing the number of baseball-playing conferences to 30.

The MEAC, one of the two Division I conferences composed of historically Black colleges and universities, was left in dire straits as a baseball conference following several defections in recent years. Savannah State reclassified to Division II, North Carolina A&T left for the Big South Conference, Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M left for the Southwestern Athletic Conference and North Carolina Central folded its program.

By the start of the 2022 season, the MEAC had just four baseball-playing members. Six teams are required for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The MEAC last year applied for a waiver for the 2022 season and received it, as the NCAA’s Division I baseball committee noted that membership had slipped in part due to the fallout from the pandemic (which was cited as a reason for eliminating the program at NC Central). But the committee only granted the waiver for one season and indicated it would not be as accommodating in the future.

That left the MEAC searching for answers. While the conference as a whole has explored expansion, those talks have not come to fruition. Instead, the MEAC was able to form a partnership with the NEC.

The quartet of MEAC schools joined the NEC, which already was undergoing changes of its own. Bryant and Mount St. Mary’s left the conference this summer for the America East Conference and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, respectively. Stonehill is reclassifying from Division II and joining the NEC. The net effect of those moves and the addition of the MEAC schools is that the NEC will have 11 baseball-playing members—Central Connecticut State, Coppin State, Delaware State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Merrimack, Norfolk State, Sacred Heart, Stonehill and Wagner.

This effectively marks the end of the MEAC as a baseball conference, for the second time. The MEAC previously went through a period from 1978-83 when the sport was discontinued, before returning. Coppin State this year won the MEAC Tournament, which now appears to be the last in conference history.

Meanwhile, the dissolution of the MEAC as a baseball conference means the number of at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament will increase from 33 to 34. There also were 34 at-large bids in 2021, when the Ivy League sat out the season due to the pandemic. Moving forward, the NCAA Tournament bubble will be just slightly more forgiving.

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