HAMPTON, Va. (WVEC) -- The Hampton University Pirates and Lady Pirates are leaving the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and heading to the Big South Conference.

The switch will take place July 1, 2018, ending HU's 22-year relationship with the MEAC.

The college and the Big South held a news conference Thursday to make the announcement.

"The move to the Big South Conference is just another part of an exciting year at Hampton University," Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey said in a news release. "Institutions in the Big South are located in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, which means that our student athletes will spend less time traveling and more time in classes on campus. This keeps the proper focus on academics, which is our chief reason for being. The smaller geographic footprint will also reduce travel expenses."

Harvey added that the large number of alumni in the Big South region was another consideration an that the university hoped to continue competing against some MEAC teams.

Big South Commissioner Kyle Kallander said it was a big day for the Big South.

"We have always been impressed by Hampton's academics and athletics accomplishments under President Harvey's visionary leadership. We appreciate his interest and support of the Big South and look forward to working with him and the rest of Hampton's leadership to support our student-athletes," said Kallander, adding that the Big South is a better conference with the addition of Hampton University.

The Pirates sponsor 17 sports at the Division I level, 16 of which are sponsored by the Big South: 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 and women's golf, and women's volleyball.

Men's lacrosse will not compete in the Big South.

The Big South Conference was founded in 1983. Currently, there are 10 member schools: Campbell University, Charleston Southern University, Gardner-Webb University, High Point University, Liberty University, Longwood University, Presbyterian College, Radford University, UNC Asheville, and Winthrop University.

The conference also includes football members Kennesaw State University, Monmouth University, and the University of North Alabama.

Hampton's athletics history includes appearances in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The women's basketball team has won five MEAC championships in a row and six in the last eight years.

Pirates Football has made five FCS Championship post-season appearances and made five trips to post-season play as a NCAA Division II member.