Pandemic Prompts Aggies’ Athletic Conference to Suspend All Sports for Fall Semester

By Jackie Torok / 07/16/2020 Athletics

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (July 16, 2020) – The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), which counts North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University among its 11 members, announced today the suspension of all sports for the fall 2020 semester as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to MEAC leadership, this decision is made out of an abundance of caution for the physical health and well-being of student athletes, coaches, staff and the community.

“Our hearts break for our student athletes, who continue to have their lives upended by this pandemic, and for the many faithful supporters across the nation of our athletics teams,” said Earl M. Hilton III, director of Intercollegiate Athletics at North Carolina A&T. “Having said that, we support every effort to protect and maintain the health of our students, coaches, staff and Aggie Nation supporters.”

The rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases along the eastern seaboard heavily influenced today’s decision by the conference’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors, as data suggest African American and other minority communities are being disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus.

Four of the approximately 115 Aggies involved in voluntary summer workouts recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, though they are asymptomatic. They remain under quarantine.

“We will provide the support our student-athletes need through this difficult period,” said Hilton. “That will include provision of opportunities for them to receive the academic and athletics support necessary for them to effectively navigate these unprecedented challenges.”

A decision has not yet been made on whether fall sports schedules will be moved to the 2021 spring semester. The conference plans to proceed with winter sports competitions as scheduled, unless health and medical professionals advise otherwise.

The pandemic previously forced the conference to suspend suspension of winter championships and spring sports.

The NCAA is expected to clarify matters, such as student-athlete eligibility and whether college sports will proceed normally come spring 2021, as part of its ongoing pandemic response.

“These are not opportunities that will come again for many of these student athletes,” said Hilton during a news conference with area media outlets. “I’ll be there, you’ll be there next football season, but my seniors may not be. These are time-limited. They expire.

“I clearly haven’t recovered from canceling basketball in March, or indoor-outdoor track yet, so I apologize,” an emotional Hilton said. “But when these student-athletes lose a year of competition – especially my upperclassmen, juniors and seniors – it’s gone. It’s over. And they’ve been working, preparing for these opportunities, these experiences.

“Some of them have aspirations beyond college. Some of them have talent beyond college. And to take away the opportunity to showcase that talent, to put themselves in the position to be hired to play professionally, 'devastating' doesn’t seem strong enough,” he said. “Our student-athletes will need our love and attention and our care and our comfort as they try to make sense of this in their young lives and put it in perspective and adjust in healthy ways to the rest of their lives as they move forward.”

The Aggies won MEAC titles in football, men’s indoor track and field, women’s indoor track and field and earned bids for postseason competition in football, volleyball, women’s indoor track and field and men’s indoor track and field for 2019-20.

A&T, which sponsors 17 varsity sports at the Division I level, also received its second straight (MEAC) Academic Performance Rate (APR) award, following MEAC All-Academic honors for members of A&T’s baseball, softball and men’s tennis teams.

Effective July 1, 2021, A&T’s football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s golf, and women’s volleyball teams will compete as members of the Big South Conference while its bowling team will remain a MEAC member.

Hilton’s message to all Aggies is to remember that 130,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19 and “at the end of the day, we’re talking about sports, we’re talking about athletics.

“As deeply as I care about sports and what it means to our young people and how it has the ability to impact our lives and our community, at the end of the day, we’re talking about families who have lost loved ones, who have really significant heartbreak and tragedy to confront and to deal with,” he said. “And the other piece is, we’re going to be fine. We’re going to get through this. We will come out on the other end of this whenever COVID ends – and it will end, science will prevail. It will end.

“We’re going to be stronger… and continue the trajectory that we’ve established in A&T athletics and at A&T generally in terms of our roles and responsibilities, our goals and aspirations.”

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu