The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) begins its 43rd year of intercollegiate competition heading into the 2012-13 academic school year. Located in Norfolk, Va., the MEAC is made up of 13 outstanding historically black institutions across the Atlantic coastline: Bethune-Cookman University, Coppin State University, Delaware State University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Howard University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Morgan State University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, Savannah State University and South Carolina State University.
The MEAC sponsors 15 Division I (FCS) sports with automatic qualifying bids for NCAA postseason competition in baseball, bowling, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, football, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track and field, softball, and volleyball.
MEAC student-athletes excel on and off the field and several have been recognized on ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-America and All-District teams. The conference sponsors All-Academic teams in each of its sports and awards two post-graduate scholarships of $5,000 each annually to one male and one female student-athlete who have excelled academically and athletically and are in their final season of intercollegiate athletics eligibility and competition under MEAC and NCAA regulations.
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore was recognized during the reception as the 2011 recipient of the MEAC Highest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) award for the third straight year. UMES' 90-percent GSR is the highest among any MEAC institution spanning the 2001-2004 cohorts. The conference awards $25,000 to the institution with the highest graduation rate every year.
In 1969, a bold ad hoc group of innovators long associated with intercollegiate athletics met in Durham, N.C., to discuss the feasibility of organizing a new conference. From these discussions, they formed a steering and planning committee to fully investigate the idea, present a detailed report with recommendations to interested collegiate institutions, and construct a workshop to outline proposals.
After selecting a proposal and adopting a program, seven institutions (Delaware State College, Howard University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University and South Carolina State College) agreed to become the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Their major objective was to establish, organize and supervise an intercollegiate athletic program among a compact group of educational institutions of high academic standards with a sound philosophy of co-curricular activities. The conference agreed to seek Division I status for its sports.
The conference was confirmed in 1970, kicking off its first season of competition in football in 1971.
In 1978, the MEAC reached a milestone when it selected Kenneth A. Free to be its first full-time commissioner. Free served the conference for 18 years before stepping down in May of 1996. In July 1996, Charles S. Harris was named commissioner and served in the capacity until April 2002. On September 1, 2002, Dr. Dennis E. Thomas was named commissioner and has served in the position for 10 years.
The conference's first expansion occurred in October 1979, when Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University were voted into the MEAC as new members. Original members Morgan State, North Carolina Central and Maryland Eastern Shore withdrew from the conference at the end of the 1979-80 fiscal year. Maryland Eastern Shore was readmitted in 1981 and Morgan State returned in 1984. Florida A&M opted to resign in 1984 but rejoined the conference in 1986. Coppin State College was granted admittance in 1985, becoming the ninth member institution.
The MEAC expanded again in the 1990s with the inclusion of Hampton University (1995) and Norfolk State University (1997). The conference expanded once again in 2007, adding Winston-Salem State University. Winston-Salem State University, a MEAC provisional member, did not meet the qualifications for Division I and withdrew from the conference following the 2009-10 academic and athletic season. On July 1, 2010, the MEAC made its most recent expansion with the admittance of North Carolina Central and Savannah State University.
On June 8, 1980, the MEAC was classified as a Division I conference by the NCAA. Prior to that year, the conference operated as a Division II conference. The month after it achieved Division I status, the MEAC received an automatic qualification to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. Currently, the conference has automatic qualifying bids for NCAA postseason play in baseball (since 1994), men's basketball (since 1981), women's basketball (since 1982), football (since 1996), softball (since 1995), men's and women's tennis (since 1998), and volleyball (since 1994).
The MEAC declares champions in seven men's sports-baseball, basketball, cross country, football, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and tennis. It declares champions in the following women's sports-cross country, basketball, bowling, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, softball, tennis and volleyball.
The MEAC initiated cross country in 1980, and North Carolina A&T earned the inaugural men's crown. The first women's cross country championship took place a year later, with Howard winning the first of its seven titles. Indoor Track and Field was also added in 1981, with South Carolina State capturing the men's title and Howard winning the women's crown.
Tennis and golf returned as MEAC-governed sports in 1981 after a five-year hiatus. South Carolina State won all seven of the conference's golf championships from 1972-1983 before the sport was discontinued after the 1983 championship.
In wrestling, Morgan State won 13-of-24 conference championships before the sport was discontinued in 1995.
Baseball, which began in 1972, was discontinued following the 1977 season. It was brought back as a MEAC-governed sport along with women's volleyball in 1983. Women's softball became a MEAC-sanctioned sport in 1992.
Bowling was officially sanctioned as a MEAC sport in 1999. The MEAC was the first conference to secure NCAA sanctioning for women's bowling by adopting the club sport prior to the 1996-97 school year.
The MEAC has enjoyed tremendous athletic success over the years. In 2008, Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) defeated Arkansas State 4-2 to win the NCAA Women's Bowling National Championship, a first for the conference and institution. With the victory, Lady Hawks' Head Coach Sharon Brummell became the first female head coach to win an NCAA bowling title. The Lady Hawks repeated the feat in 2011 to win the team's second NCAA title. During the same season, UMES won the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Intercollegiate Team Championships (ITC), becoming the first team to win two national championships during the same year.
In 2012, UMES captured their third NCAA Bowling championship title in five years with a 4-2 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. The Lady Hawks became the second team in NCAA bowling history to win three championships and the first to make four appearances in the championship finale.
In men's basketball, UMES became the first historically black college/university (HBCU) to participate in the 1974 National Invitational Tournament (NIT). The Hawks defeated Manhattan, 84-81, in the first round before falling to Jacksonville by two points in the second round. Before the Jacksonville loss, UMES had the best record in the nation at 27-1. That same year, Morgan State won the NCAA College Division II National Championship and junior center Marvin "The Human Eraser" Webster was named the Division II Player of the Year.
Howard's men's basketball team became the first MEAC team to play in the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship in 1981. The Bison faced Wyoming and fell 78-43 in the first round.
Coppin State and Hampton made history in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament with first-round victories. The No. 15 seeded Coppin State Eagles defeated No. 2 South Carolina in 1997, and No. 15 seeded Hampton defeated No. 2 Iowa State in 2001. ESPN Sports Center ranked both victories ranked among the Top 10 greatest tournament upsets of all time. In 2012, Norfolk State became the fifth team in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament history and the third MEAC team to defeat a number two seed (Missouri).
In women's basketball, South Carolina State won the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Division II National Championship in 1979. In 1982, Howard became the first MEAC women's team to participate in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship. South Carolina State earned the conference's bid in 1983 and became the first MEAC team, men or women, to win an opening-round game in the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament.
In 2010, The North Carolina A&T Lady Aggies defeated Wake Forest and Charlotte before falling to Miami in the third round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). North Carolina A&T became the first MEAC team and historically black college/university to win two consecutive basketball games in a national postseason tournament.
The No. 13 Hampton Lady Pirates faced No. 4 Kentucky in the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament. The 13th seed was the highest seed earned by a MEAC women's basketball program since the inception of the 64-team bracket in 1994.
In football, the MEAC was instrumental in constructing the Freedom Bowl All-Star Classic, the Heritage Bowl and the Gold Bowl. Prior to Division I competition, the MEAC competed in the Gold Bowl, held in Richmond, Va., which matched the MEAC champion against the champion of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA). South Carolina State represented the MEAC in 1976 and 1979, winning both outings over Winston-Salem State and Norfolk State respectively. In addition to the 1976 and 1979 crowns, South Carolina State won MEAC football titles in 1974-78, 1980-83, 1994, 2004, 2008 and 2009. South Carolina State won MEAC football titles in 1974-78, 1980-83,1994, 2004, 2008 and 2009. They were also named co-champions along with Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M during the 2010 season. During the 1981 and 1982 seasons, South Carolina State reached the second round of the I-AA championships.
In 2003, Florida A&M became the first MEAC school to win a volleyball match in the NCAA Championship, with a first-round win over Winthrop. In 2004, the Lady Rattlers became the first historically black college/university to rank in the Top 25 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) national poll.
On the track, Hampton's Francenca McCorory set an American record in the 400m dash with a time of 50.54 and defended her national indoor title at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships. McCorory was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I National Athlete of the Year for the 2010 Indoor Track and Field season.
In outdoor track and field, North Carolina Central won the first three MEAC titles. The quartet of Melvin Bassett, Robert Ouko, Julius Sang and Larry Black set the world record in the sprint medley relay with a time of 38.19 in the 1972 Olympics. The Eagles finished fourth in the 1974 NCAA Division I Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championship. MEAC women began outdoor track and field conference competition in 1980. In 1982, South Carolina State won the AIAW Division II Outdoor Track and Field National Championship.
The MEAC has showcased over 30 athletes in the Olympics and 13 have earned medals during the Summer Games.
No. 72 South Carolina State's women's tennis team became the first MEAC team to finish the season ranked in the 2005 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division I final poll. In 2012, SCSU's Maria Craciun became the first tennis player in MEAC and school history to receive a berth to the NCAA Individual Singles Championship.
In softball, Bethune-Cookman earned the conference's first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA Softball Championship in 2005. The Lady Wildcats defeated Florida, Central Florida and South Florida in the Florida Regional to become the first MEAC school to win an NCAA Division I Softball Regional. Bethune-Cookman ended the 2005 season with the conference's first-ever rankings in the final softball polls, reaching No. 18 in the NFCA/USA Today Coaches poll and No. 23 in the USA Softball/ESPN.com Poll.
Florida A&M was the first MEAC baseball team to advance to NCAA postseason play in 1994. The Rattlers took on Southeastern Louisiana in a best of three play-in series, falling after two games, 11-10 and 8-7. During the 2002 campaign, Bethune-Cookman advanced to the Gainesville Regional and became the first MEAC team to win in the NCAA Tournament with a 7-4 victory over Florida International. The Wildcats had previously lost to Florida in their first game 13-1, and the team was eliminated from the regional with a 21-10 loss in its second matchup against the Gators.