HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Just four years after making the major change from their longtime home in the MEAC to the Big South, Hampton University’s sports teams are on the move again.

The Pirates will join the Colonial Athletic Association on July 1, 2022. Hampton officially announced the change on Tuesday and said a joint press conference with the CAA was held at 1 p.m.

“The move to the Colonial Athletic Association is the next step in the evolution of Hampton University Athletics,” said Hampton President Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton University in a press release. “Several institutions in the CAA are located in our geographical footprint, which means that our student athletes will continue to spend less time traveling and more time in classes on campus. This move continues to keep the proper focus on academics, which is our chief reason for being. The conference’s geographic footprint, as well as occasional contests against institutions in the northeast, will reduce travel expenses while allowing for competition in several of the nation’s top media markets.”

One of those schools is just down I-64 in William & Mary.

Hampton will join New Jersey’s Monmouth University and Long Island’s Stony Brook University in making the move to the CAA. Stony Brook already competes in CAA football.

“All three institutions fit perfectly into the framework of the Conference’s vision that calls for our membership to work together to advance nationally competitive athletic programs – coupled with outstanding academic programs – that empower student-athletes as whole persons to strive at the highest level in every aspect of their lives,” said CAA President Joe D’Antonio. “The CAA is excited for what the future holds and will continue to be focused on making decisions that ensure its membership is a competitive and sustainable model.” 

The CAA was looking to add members with the upcoming departure of James Madison University. The Dukes announced this November that they’re joining the Sun Belt Conference, with the goal of having all sports in the Sun Belt by July 2022. The CAA has been criticized nationally for not allowing JMU athletes to compete in conference championships going forward. It’s unclear if Hampton faces a penalty for leaving the Big South, which now only has five football members.

The additions make the CAA more northern-focused, with seven schools north of Virginia now: Towson, Delaware, Drexel, Monmouth, Hofstra, Stony Brook and Northeastern University in Boston (here’s a map of how the conference stood in 2021).

Hampton brings some balance to the southern end, which stretches as far south as Charleston. The members in Virginia and below now include: Hampton, William & Mary, Elon, UNC Wilmington and the College of Charleston.

“On behalf of the entire Hampton University Athletic Department, student/athletes, coaches and staff, we are pleased and very excited to join the community that is the Colonial Athletic Association,” said Eugene Marshall, Jr., Hampton University Director of Athletics.  “The CAA’s history and tradition both athletically and academically align perfectly with the ideals and core values of our visionary President, Dr. William R. Harvey, who believes in building leaders and champions in the classroom and field of play.” 

15 of Hampton’s Division 1 sports are sponsored by the CAA: football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track & field, softball, men’s lacrosse and women’s volleyball. Women’s triahlon and co-ed sailing will compete elsewhere, Hampton says.