Wilberforce University slated to join Gulf Coast Athletic Conference in 2024

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Wilberforce joins GCAC

NEW ORLEANS – The Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) has extended membership to Wilberforce University (Ohio), beginning in the 2024-2025 academic year. Wilberforce received a unanimous vote from the GCAC’s Council of Presidents in September 2023 and will officially join the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) only HBCU conference on July 1, 2024.

“We are elated to have Wilberforce in our conference,” said GCAC Commissioner Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes. “Adding members strengthens our ability to execute every aspect of our strategic plan and own the narrative of HBCU excellence.”

As the only Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) conference within the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the GCAC represents a vibrant community of like-minded institutions committed to empowering student-athletes through exceptional educational experiences.

Wilberforce University President Vann R. Newkirk expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “Currently, Wilberforce University has few regional rivalries. This impacts fan interest and the ability of the University to garner the interest of students. Joining an all-HBCU conference allows graduates of the institution to rekindle relations with schools that the University historically had rivalries. It also allows us to tap into regional HBCU alumni bases and thus increase our ability to earn a few dollars to support our athletic programs. Finally, for our students, it allows them to participate against similarly funded programs and to attend games against familiar teams.”

Under the visionary leadership of Dr. KiKi Baker Barnes, the first Black woman commissioner, the GCAC has undergone a remarkable revival and expansion, growing from six in 2021 to ten members in 2023. This growth has solidified the conference’s standing as a beacon of excellence, fostering a nurturing environment that embraces diversity, inclusivity, and high achievement.

“We don’t expect to earn millions like the big schools, but we know that at our level every penny counts, and running an athletic program is a business,” stated President Newkirk. “This move will energize our alumni base which in turn will help us to increase attendance and overall interest in the University.”

Wilberforce University, founded in 1856, is the nation’s oldest, private, historically black University owned and operated by African Americans. By joining the GCAC, Wilberforce University will engage in spirited competition against other exceptional HBCUs, further showcasing the remarkable talent and resilience of its student-athletes.

“We are excited about being a part of the GCAC,” said Wilberforce Director of Athletics John Hill. “Wilberforce has excellence, and joining the GCAC gives us the opportunity to display that. We are building on a multitude of levels and this energy is one of those levels. We want to engage further and this is a way to bridge the gap between the university and the community.”

As Wilberforce University joins the GCAC, a new chapter of excellence is poised to unfold. This partnership promises to bring forth an array of exciting athletic competitions, foster academic growth, and empower student-athletes to reach their full potential, both on and off the field.

For more information about Bulldogs Athletics, visit wilberforcebulldogs.com. To learn more about the GCAC, visit gcaconf.com.

About Wilberforce University
Wilberforce University, the first, private, historically Black college/university (HBCU) is a four-year, fully accredited, liberal arts institution offering more than 20 Bachelor’s degrees in the areas of Business, Communications, Computing, and Engineering Sciences, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and the Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling. Through Adult and Continuing Education Studies, the institution offers Credentials for Leadership in Management and Business (RISE) for individuals interested in completing their Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice administration, organizational management, health care administration, and information technology. 

Founded in 1856 in partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Wilberforce University is part of a long tradition of collaboration between church and higher education institutions. 

Noted for graduating global leaders, Wilberforce University has impacted the world, staying true to its founding principles of self-determination and academic success. We encourage our partners to reimagine the world with us by reaching further, as evidenced through our holistic scope of Excellence, Innovation and Kindness.

About the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference
The Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) is the only HBCU conference in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The GCAC membership includes Dillard University (LA), Fisk University (TN), Oakwood University (AL), Philander Smith College (AR), Rust College (MS), Southern University at New Orleans (LA), Talladega College (AL), Tougaloo College (MS), University of the Virgin Islands (St. Thomas) and Wiley College (TX). GCAC sponsors championships in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s track and field, women’s volleyball, and baseball. In 2022, the GCAC secured the largest media rights deal in conference and NAIA history, signing a multimillion-dollar deal with Urban Edge Network. Through this partnership, the GCAC garnered nearly 1.5 million views of its championship live broadcasts. For more information visit www.gcaconf.com.

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