Florida A&M University has officially joined the SWAC after over 40 years as a member of the MEAC. Get the exciting full story and learn how it will impact FAMU athletics from Rory Sharrock at the Tallahassee Democrat below!

Stanley Denmark/FAMU Athletics

A new era in the storied history of Florida A&M begins on July 1 with the university officially joining the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) as a full-time member. 

FAMU President Larry Robinson, Vice President/Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha and SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland will host a press conference Thursday at 10:30 a.m. inside the Al Lawson Multipurpose Center welcoming the Rattlers to the league. 

Rattler coaches from each program will also be in the building for this landmark occasion.

This is a follow-up to the announcement from last summer regarding the university’s move from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). The switch was unanimously approved by the FAMU Board of Directors.  

FAMU has previously been a member of the MEAC since 1986.

“This is a transformational moment in our athletic department’s history. I would like to thank our President Dr. Larry Robinson and our Board of Trustees for supporting this next chapter of Florida A&M athletics’ storied history,” Gosha said. 

“Excitement is an understatement for our student-athletes, fans and alumni. To have the opportunity to compete against HBCU royalty every week is an honor and the natural rivalries that exist in the SWAC will give every game that homecoming vibe.”

In this 12-team conference, the Rattlers will play in the East Division. Their divisional foes are Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and arch-rival Bethune-Cookman. 

The Wildcats followed suit with FAMU in departing the MEAC.

Schools representing the West Division are Alcorn State, Grambling State, Prairie View A&M, Southern, Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB).

In 2020, the MEAC and FAMU canceled fall sports due to safety concerns from the coronavirus pandemic.

The MEAC moved its fall activities to the spring. However, FAMU opted not to compete during the season. 

FAMU’s three active fall programs are football, volleyball and women’s cross country.

Similarly, the SWAC held its fall sports schedule this past spring. 

Listed below are the defending SWAC championship teams from these respective sports. There’s also a head-to-head comparison of these programs against the Rattlers.

FAMU running back Bishop Bonnett in a game versus Southern at Bragg Memorial Stadium in 2019. (Credit) Stanley Denmark/FAMU Athletics)


The Alabama A&M Bulldogs won the SWAC football championship on May 1 following a 40-33 victory over the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions. 

Alabama A&M – winner of the East Division – is located in Huntsville. 

FAMU faces both championship game participants on the road this fall.

The Rattlers and Bulldogs meet on Oct. 16. They’ll visit the Golden Lions on Nov. 13.

Currently, there are 22 players on the Bulldogs’ roster from Florida. The local connection is linked by defensive back DeJuan Hughes of Wakulla High School.

There are also coaching ties between FAMU and Alabama A&M.

Rattlers associate head coach/tight ends coach James Spady was the head coach of the Bulldogs from 2014-17.

FAMU and UAPB share common ground from the relationship between head coaches Willie Simmons and Doc Gamble.

Both men were assistants on the staff at Alcorn State in 2012. 

Simmons was the offensive coordinator/running backs coach. Gamble worked with the running backs alongside Simmons. He also coached tight ends and served as the recruiting coordinator with the Braves.

FAMU opens the 2021 season against Jackson State in the Orange Blossom Classic. The game takes place Sunday, Sept. 5 at 3 p.m. in Miami Gardens. This live broadcast airs on ESPN2. 

2021 Rattlers SWAC Schedule

  • Sept. 5 – Jackson State (Miami Gardens)
  • Oct. 2 – Alabama State
  • Oct. 16 – at Alabama A&M
  • Oct. 23 – at Mississippi Valley State
  • Oct. 30 – Grambling State (Homecoming)
  • Nov. 6 – at Southern
  • Nov. 13 – at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • Nov. 20 – Bethune-Cookman (Orlando)


Jackson State reigns as the 2021 spring volleyball champions. 

The title match featured a match-up versus UAPB. However, the contest was canceled due to a COVID-related issue and subsequent quarantining of student-athletes within UAPB’s program.

As a result, Jackson State was awarded the title.

FAMU head coach Gokhan Yilmaz is finalizing the scheduling details for the upcoming season. He is eager to return to the court after a year away from the game. 

“You just keep practicing to get ready. We redshirted a lot of kids the last time we played. This is a very important year for us,” Yilmaz said.

FAMU has a little familiarity with the level of competition in the league. It has played in the 2019 MEAC/SWAC Challenge at Alabama State. 

The Rattlers lost in four sets to Alabama State and Alabama A&M.

Adjusting to life in the SWAC will be a weekly learning curve taking place on the floor.

“Overall, the SWAC and MEAC have had one team that’s been on top. It was Howard in the MEAC and Alabama State in the SWAC. This league has more teams that have won in the past four or five years,” Yilmaz said.

The SWAC Volleyball Tournament is scheduled for Nov. 19-21 at Alabama A&M University. 

Women’s Cross Country

Cross country in the SWAC was eliminated from the schedule in 2020 and for the spring 2021 semester.

The 2019 championship trophy was awarded to Texas Southern (men) and Alabama State (women).

FAMU cross country head coach Nadia Alexander-Pompey is piecing together the race schedule for 2021. 

She knows the talent on the trails will be different from the MEAC. This is especially true with programs such as North Carolina A&T and Bethune-Cookman no longer in the conference. 

FAMU Cross country runners (Left to right): Shalet Mitei, Mercy Rotich, Emmax Kiplagat, Hunter Walker, Itianna Redding and Sharon Kibiwott pose for a group shot during a meet in 2019. (FAMU Athletics)

I’m excited about being in the SWAC. With A&T and Bethune gone from the MEAC, the competition wouldn’t be the same,” Alexander-Pompey said.

“We’ll go against some great competition like Alabama State and Prairie View A&M. We should be running against SWAC teams during the regular-season meets.”

This year’s conference championships are held on Oct. 18 at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Miss.