The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore fields teams in15 varsity sports – seven for men and eight for women.
The squads compete annually for championships in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, of which the institution was a founding member in 1970 just as its name transitioned from Maryland State College to UMES. Six schools joined UMES to form the conference – Delaware State, Howard, Morgan State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central and South Carolina State – with the goal of competing at the top division within the NCAA.
MEAC now includes 13 institutions along the eastern seaboard, where UMES and arch rival Morgan State (along with Coppin State) anchor the conference at the north end. In addition the others are: Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, Hampton, Norfolk State and Savannah State.
Prior to helping form the MEAC, Maryland State was a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, a group of historically black institutions that competed against one another during an era when segregation in college athletics mirrored that of American society at large.
Founded in 1912 as the “Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association,” original CIAA members were Bowie State, Elizabeth City, Fayetteville State, St. Augustine's, St. Paul’s, Shaw, Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute, Lincoln (of Pennsylvania) and Virginia Union.
It was not until 1954, however, when Maryland State became a CIAA member even though the Princess Anne college had routinely been competing against teams from that conference.
In the early 1950s, renowned journalist Sam Lacy, sports editor of the Baltimore-based Afro-American newspaper, chastised the CIAA for its failure to “to do something recognizing the fast-growing Eastern Shore institution.”
At the time, Maryland State athletics director and football coach Vernon “Skip” McCain was building a gridiron powerhouse that routinely beat CIAA teams. As Lacy wrote in a Nov. 15, 1952 column, “admission of the Maryland school would bring new blood into an organization that is sadly in need of it.”
UMES’ Frederick Douglass Library archives show the college’s teams had no conference affiliation for about 15 years just prior to World War II into the mid-1950s, but previously had been a charter member of the now-defunct Mid-Atlantic Athletic Association that competed during the Great Depression. When the institution was the academic equivalent of a secondary school in the early 20th century, it competed in the Scholastic Athletic Association.
-- BILL ROBINSON