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N.C. A&T reaffirms move to Big South, but Aggies won't play football there this fall

N.C. A&T reaffirms move to Big South, but Aggies won't play football there this fall

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A&T athletics director Earl Hilton speaks during the announcement in February that the university will leaving the MEAC for the Big South Conference after the coming 2020-21 school year.

GREENSBORO — First things first: N.C. A&T's fall football season is still off.

Speculation about a committee meeting this morning followed immediately by a full A&T Board of Trustees meeting raised hopes on social media that the Aggies might consider playing football as an independent.

But A&T is not going to fill the vacancy in the coming Big South season created when Hampton opted out of all fall sports because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It seemed a natural fit. In theory, A&T would've gotten six games against Big South teams that have decided to play this fall, and the Aggies could've kept non-conference guarantee games with Liberty and FCS No. 1 Noth Dakota State, perhaps even adding one or two more.

But that's not happening for a couple of reasons.

• As an independent, A&T would not be eligible for any sort of league championship, squandering a year of eligibility for all its underclassmen.

• A&T is still a member of the MEAC this school year, and the MEAC has left open the possibility of playing football in the spring.

Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander said his league would've welcomed the Aggies' football team a year early.

"We haven't done a lot of matchmaking," Kallander said in a Zoom conference call this morning, "... but we are trying to be helpful with our institutions from a scheduling standpoint as much as we can, and Robert Morris is one (school) that can help.

"We had brief conversations with A&T about doing the same thing, but with the MEAC still looking at the possibility of a spring season, they're not able to participate. And that's completely understandable. That would've been something we would've been interested in. But you respect what they need to do with their current conference."

The MEAC suspended all fall sports for the 2020-21 school year back on July 16, but left open the possibility of playing them in the spring.

The league’s fall sports are football, cross country and women’s volleyball.

“Much will be determined by what the NCAA does,” A&T athletics director Earl Hilton said that day. “If the NCAA continues to move forward and has championship seasons for cross country and volleyball and football in the fall, as they are scheduled, then playing a spring schedule would be of little interest to us. I would not want to burn a year of eligibility for a young person for what amounts to an exhibition season.”

This is A&T's final year in the MEAC. The Aggies will become full members of the Big South on July 1, 2021.

And that's what today's meetings were about: confirming the move announced back in February.

A&T's Athletics Conference Assessment Committee met to once again lay out the reasons it recommended the move, followed by a special Board of Trustees meeting in which the move was authorized unanimously.

Both online Zoom conferences were public meetings.

"Let me remind everyone why we're having this meeting today," trustee Timothy King said during the Athletics Conference Assessment Committee meeting. "And that is to make sure that we are having it under the open meetings laws and to ensure we're operating under the highest compliance."

The meeting, followed by a second formal vote by trustees, could head off any nuisance lawsuits by opponents of the move to change leagues.

But any notion of an early move to play Big South football this fall is off table.

Contact Jeff Mills at (336) 373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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