MEAC member Bethune-Cookman University, despite their 9-2 record, was overlooked by the NCAA selection committee. The MEAC gave up its automatic berth to play in the Celebration Bowl, in which the MEAC champion will face the SWAC champion.
North Carolina A&T won the three way tie-breaker over BCU and North Carolina Central. The Aggies will face the winner of the Grambling-Alcorn State SWAC title game in the Celebration Bowl Dec. 5 in Atlanta.
The fact BCU got overlooked by the NCAA selection committee, and a five loss Western Illinois (6-5), says a lot about the lack of respect the MEAC.
Meanwhile, SWAC member Prairie View, which finished 9-2, was also left out. And when you consider a five loss team was chosen, and two 7-4 teams made it in before BCU and PVA&M, this further illustrates the lack of respect for HBCU football.
Now, HBCU’s can do three things about this, and only two of them will really matter:
1. Schools can bitch and moan about how unfair the process is. And, while that may be true, it is not going to help matters very much.
2. Schools can really make a commitment to upgrading their football programs, which would be done by hiring the best coaches possible, and providing upgraded facilities and recruiting resources. Doing that is more than lip service. I talked to a former HBCU coach who had a former NFL player with a gift for offensive football join his coaching staff.
“The way he could ‘see’ the field from an offensive perspective is something that you just don’t see every day,” the coach said. “He was recently retired, and wanted to get into coaching. He helped us out for a year or so, but I was never able to pay him. He finally moved on. The thing is, he didn’t want a lot of money, but we couldn’t afford him.”
But if you are really committed to fielding a winning football team, you will find the money to pay the man. There should also be a push to recruit more quality white athletes. If you are going to compete on a national level, you are going to compete against teams that can not only recruit good black players, but good white players, too. It is almost impossible for HBCUs to compete against schools who literally have twice the recruiting pool to pick from.
3. HBCUs can form their own football alliances. They can hold their own playoffs and national championships, the way National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) does for its 111 member schools.
The NCCAA conducts national championships in a variety of sports, and many of their schools still maintain a relationship with the NCAA and NAIA.
HBCU schools could form a similar organization, and conduct national championships. Such a format could work well for the FCS schools, and perhaps you could have a similar set up for the D-II schools out of the smaller HBCU conference like the CIAA and SIAC. What would really be interesting is to have a HBCU national championship tournament for basketball.
One thing is sure, the overall quality of . HBCU football, and HBCU athletics in general, need to get better. And, another thing is whatever decision that is going to be made is going to take money, and lots of it. So, even alumni have a role to play in rebuilding football programs, by earmarking more to athletics. If not, HBCU programs will continue to struggle.
Of course, on the bright side, we’ve always got the halftime shows.