NC A&T out after MEAC decides not to play spring football season

The Aggies had hoped to play a four-game spring season before leaving to join the Big South Conference in the fall

Sam Washington is 19-5 with an MEAC championship in his first two seasons as coach of the Aggies (Kevin L. Dorsey/NC A&T athletics)

NC A&T’s association with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in football has come to an end with a whimper not a bang Thursday when the league announced that it has canceled plans to stage a 2021 spring season.

The Aggies are leaving the historically black colleges and universities conference they helped found in 1970 to join the Big South in the fall. School officials had hoped to play one final season by arranging a four-game schedule starting later this month.

Those plans were scrapped, however, after several schools opted out, leaving the MEAC with only three of its nine football playing members willing to carry on. NC Central is among the schools deciding not to play over COVID-19 concerns.

Although conference commissioner Dennis E. Thomas, in a statement, gave his blessing for the remaining teams to play a spring schedule, A&T athletic director Earl Hilton said in a Zoom conference that his school has chosen not to proceed.

“The juice is not worth the squeeze,” Hilton said.

“As we’ve said multiple times, this is an unusual year for us,” Hilton said. “While this announcement was certainly not unanticipated, it is disappointing and heartbreaking nonetheless.”

The decision not to play is especially disappointing for coach Sam Washington and his team, which had already begun practice in anticipation of its opening game on Feb. 27 against S.C. State.

Just last week, Washington told the North State Journal how happy was that his players — especially the upperclassmen — would have the opportunity to play after the traditional fall season was scrapped. 

“At least they get to have a senior season. Kudos to the NCAA for allowing them that opportunity,” he said. “That was huge.”