Well, we are back covering our 24th consecutive season of A&T football watching something that many of us have become very familiar with over the last three years and yet we are beginning to step into an era of massive change in A&T athletics that very few of us thought was possible just a few short years ago. North Carolina A&T is moving to a new conference once again but let us take a minute and reminisce for a moment.
First it was becoming a charter member of the MEAC for 50 years that elevated the school into D-1 competition after leaving the historic D-II CIAA back in 1970.
The Aggies won their fair share of championships in nearly every sport during their tenure there and consistently dominated that conference in football for most the 2010’s winning four HBCU national titles in a 5-year span which brought their program into the national limelight and became the gold standard to which HBCU programs across the spectrum aspired to become.
Then in 2020, A&T announced that its ever rapidly increasing growth, the pursuit of its R-1 goals as an academic research institution coupled with a desire to expand their athletic options long term had outgrown their old home. The decision to join the Big South was fueled in part by a 2015 study and evaluation that suggested that A&T would be better served elsewhere because of the MEAC’s limited structure and that it should seriously consider changing conferences if the opportunity arose.
That study had also pointed out the Colonial Athletic Association would be the ideal choice long term to meet the goals to join a R-1 peer group. But that would be a down the road move or so everyone thought.
The worldwide Covid pandemic put a hold on all athletics for over a year which resulted in a mass conference realignment of FBS college athletics over the last two years with the power conferences consolidating their leagues economic power and stability. In 2022, that trend finally reached down into the FCS ranks and forced a rethinking of the power balance in the FCS.
Only a handful of people were aware during that the time that the school was being formally approached by the about becoming a full member of that conference. And while there were some clear financial and facilities disparities between A&T some of the CAA’s existing members, the determination was made by the Board of Trustees and the administration that the gap could be closed in a relatively short period with a properly managed financial investment plan along with strategic expansion of its current athletic facilities.
So here we are, full members of the newly renamed Coastal Athletic Association, the largest FCS conference (16 members) in the nation and considered one of the truly dominant athletic conferences at this level. Make no mistake about it, the CAA is a real deal power league along with the Missouri Valley, SoCon, Big Sky, and the Southland – the “Power 5” of the FCS if you will.
It’s anyone’s guess how this first year will work out as far as football is concerned with a new coach, new staff, and a largely new roster. It will be a year of transition for Aggie football. There is no denying that but its not like A&T is joining the ACC but the CAA. These are football programs that we have recruited and competed against before.
We have had success against teams of this ilk before, just not week in and week out and that will be the real challenge. All the other A&T sports teams have already had their inaugural seasons in the CAA last year and if those results are any kind of barometer, then the Aggies should be able to hold their own and be more than competitive by season’s end.
Thursday, August 31
*Delaware at Stony Brook – 7 p.m.
*William & Mary at Campbell – 7 p.m.
Elon at Wake Forest – 7 p.m. (ACC Network)
Rhode Island at Georgia State – 7 p.m.
North Carolina A&T at UAB – 8 p.m.
Saturday, September 2
Morgan State at Richmond – 6 p.m.
Hampton vs. Grambling (@red Bull Arena/Harrison, N.J.) – 3 p.m.
Maine at FIU – 6:30 p.m.
Monmouth at FAU – 6 p.m.
New Hampshire at Stonehill – 1 p.m.
Towson at Maryland – 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Villanova at Lehigh – 12 p.m.
UAlbany at Marshall – 6 p.m.
* Conference Game
A new era of A&T football begins tonight from top to bottom – a new coach, anew staff, a new offense, a new defense and so many new names on the roster that you and I are going to have to buy a game program this season to keep up with everyone.
Vincent Brown will be making his Aggie debut as the new head coach after serving as the defensive coordinator of defending CAA William Mary and long-time top assistant to Mike London, one of the top tier coaches in FCS football.
Brown has worked intensely during the winter, spring. and summer to instill in his team his new philosophy of discipline, accountability, and a team first mentality yet retaining the deep traditions and understanding of what being an Aggie is all about. Tonight, is the first of eleven such acid tests, the first step to see if that philosophy will indeed transform the A&T program from just being consistently good to the next level of becoming elite.
It’s going to be a wild ride. Gotta love that new car smell.
UAB – 31
NCAT – 21