For football fans who follow N.C. A&T football and are new to the Coastal Athletic Association there’s been a lot of discussion as who the 16 teams exactly are and where do they rate after completing through the first third of the season as we head into the final weekend of September. Week 4 action began to really show some real separation of the very top of the conference from the rest the league.
No. 5-ranked William & Mary (4-0, 2-0) are the defending CAA champions and they are showing absolutely no signs of relinquishing their title anytime soon. The rest of the upper division of the CAA is built on the strength of five more Top 25 combatants in #11 Delaware (3-1, 2-0), #14 New Hampshire (2-2, 2-1), #16 Villanova (3-1, 1-0), and #24 Rhode Island (2-2, 2-1).
The middle is composed of Elon, Richmond, Monmouth, Hampton, and Albany while the current lower half of the conference includes Towson, Maine, along with first year newcomers N.C. A&T, Campbell, and Stony Brook.
With seven teams in the Top 25, the Big Sky leads the FCS among the power conferences, The Missouri Valley Conference with six, with the CAA trailing by only a thread with 5 teams in the poll to its credit.
Expect those numbers to thin out just a considerably as these three conferences members begin to knock off one another in the month of October as those non-conference schedules come to an end and weekly conference play takes over for the duration of the season. Inevitably all these top 25 teams will begin to go head-to-head, then throw in the fact the very real prospect of some upsets taking place at the hands of lower division teams and the playoff picture could shift very quickly and very dramatically for all concerned going forward. Those programs riding high in September just might be on the flipside of that coin and could be scrambling by the end of October.
Time will tell.
CAA Football TV/Streaming Schedule for Saturday – 9/30/23
Bryant at Rhode Island 1:00pm FloSports
Lehigh at Monmouth 1:00pm FloSports / SNY / NBCS PHI+
Hampton at Richmond 2:00pm FloSports
North Carolina A&T at Norfolk State 2:00pm ESPN+
William & Mary at Elon 2:00pm FloSports/WMYV
Towson at New Hampshire 3:00pm FloSports
Stony Brook at Maine 3:30pm FloSports
Villanova at UAlbany 3:30pm FloSports
Campbell at NC Central 4:00pm ESPN+
Football has not been the focal point on the campus of N.C. A&T this week even though the Aggies will be renewing an old rivalry with long time HBCU foe and friend Norfolk State. Nope athletics took a back seat this week and for good reason.
It’s been a week of filled with surprise, some shock, and a great deal of reflection as North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. announced his impending retirement at the end of the 2023-24 academic year at the recent Board of Trustees meeting held on this past Friday.
Dr. Martin, a 1974 alumnus, has led the university since June of 2009 after being his tenure as the Vice President of Academic Affairs for the UNC System and before that as Chancellor of Winston Salem State University (2000-2006). Before even then He cut his academic and administrative teeth as an Aggie alum as Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean of the School of Engineering.
Under Martin’s leadership, the university has developed a strategic plan aimed to position the North Carolina A&T to become a premier institution of higher learning and research on a state, national, and international level. The plan entitled “A&T Preeminence 2020,” identified six specific goals including the increase of diversity and research activity within the university.
That plan led the university on a path of steady enrollment growth, the implementation and execution of the plan resulted in the entire reorganization of A&T’s academic programs, significant improvement in the academic profile of incoming students, growth in research funding and enhanced performance in its intercollegiate athletics program.
With many of the plan’s goals already achieved, the university introduced a successor plan in 2018, “A&T Preeminence: Taking the Momentum to 2023,” that features a new goal with the direct intent on becoming the nation’s first HBCU to achieve R-1 status, the highest ranking awarded by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education by the end of this decade.
With an unprecedented growth rate of 7 percent annually, N.C. A&T has become the nation’s largest historically black university (HBCU) expanding overall enrollment to nearly 14,000 students in 2023. Becoming the top-ranked public HBCU in the nation and North Carolina’s third most productive public research university. It has also increased its standing as a land-grant institution and doctoral research university.
It was also during his tenure at the university, that A&T experienced one of their longest and most nationally acclaimed stretches of intercollegiate athletic success ever while also making some its it most provocative and somewhat controversial moves regarding conference realignment.
A&T won four HBCU national championships and five conference championships in football (2014-2019), three women’s basketball championships and five post season tournament appearances, a men’s basketball title and NCAA first round win, two baseball championships, five conference bowling crowns including a national championship in 2015, and the unparalleled success of both the men’s and women’s track and field programs with a combined 8 championships in a four year period, two top five team finishes in the NCAAs, four NCAA individual event crowns and placing two gold medalists in the 2020 Olympic Games.
Amid all its success in the MEAC, A&T decided in 2020 to end its 50-year relationship with the Mid-Eastern Athletic conference opting to instead to move on to the Big South Conference in what was be at first presented as a peer academic consideration, revenue/marketing boost and a cost cutting measure to a more regionally-based conference. Incredibly just a year after its first year of Big South competition, the mass realignment fever of conferences that swept across the entire college sports landscape opened the doorway for the then Colonial Athletic Association to come courting A&T in its big expansion move in 2022 which saw it add five new members in less than 12 months.
Those moves, championed by Martin and the Board of Trustees, were generally met with tepid approval from most alumni as the athletic program was moving way ahead and far faster than anyone’s projection into one of the most competitive and well-financed mid-major conferences in the country. Still there were a significant number of alums who expressed their initial dissatisfaction and Martin received quite a bit of criticism from some social media news outlets and from loads of casual HBCU sports followers outside of the immediate A&T aura because of that decision.
What Martin has done and will continue to do until he leaves office in June of next year, is put into motion a blueprint for A&T athletics to expand its student-athlete services, to renovate and bolster its current and future facilities, and to continue to build an already prominent A&T brand among HBCUs into an easily recognizable and nationally associated marketing asset. As he should since he, in large part, has been responsible for much of this renaissance.
Most of the heavy lifting going forward after this year will fall to the next chancellor, the 13th in the 135-year history of the university, but the cement for the foundation has already been set by Martin and a Board of Trustees that is nowhere near inclined to backtrack on a course of actions that has done nothing other than to issue in an era of incredible growth and expansion that very few if any HBCU has experienced in modern day history.
For many, Martin’s successor will need to display many of the same attributes – a vigorous dynamic leadership quality, a keen eye for proper organization and execution, along with a willingness to attack new challenges head-on and not just kick the proverbial can down the road like other college presidents have done in the past. The next chancellor’s style may and will be different, but it will be paramount that the extension of the vision, the growth, the expansion, and continued evolution of A&T as a high value institution of higher learning and the positive impact on the lives and welfare of its students, in all facets of college experience, remain the top priority and always the primary focus.
N.C. A&T – 23
Norfolk State – 21