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HBCU Game Time

College Football Winds Down

The HBCU sports season is officially on, and as host of the national sports talk radio show, From the Press Box to Press Row, I cover all the action on the games that showcase our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCU GameTime will provide a weekly rundown on what’s happening on the field, and occasionally other sports-related topics. Let’s play!

Donal Ware, HBCU GameTime

Donal Ware, HBCU GameTime

There is still a little football left to be played.

On FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW this week, I will give my final grades to schools from the MEAC, CIAA and SIAC.  Log onto boxtorow.com to find a radio station near you that carries the show or to listen online, via your mobile device or on SiriusXM Channels 141 and 142.

National postseason play
Five teams made the national playoffs. Only one teams remains.

After receiving an at-large berth, Tennessee State routed Butler 31-0 in the first round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs. (Did you even know Butler had a football team? They are known for basketball, even playing in the national championship game against Duke a few years back.)  On Saturday, the Tigers will face an opponent they are familiar with in Eastern Illinois, a fellow Ohio Valley Conference member who defeated TSU 34-16 on October 26.  It was the first of two straight losses, but the Tigers have since rebounded and have won three straight.

TSU will once again have its hands full.  While the Tigers are ranked fourth in defense in all of FCS, EIU is ranked first in offense averaging almost 600 yards per game!

Meanwhile, Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State suffered losses last week.  B-CU fell to Coastal Carolina 48-24 in Conway, SC.  This marked the second year in a row the Wildcats fell in the opening round of the playoffs to Coastal.  South Carolina State hosted its first round game, falling to Furman 30-20.

Tuskegee, the all-time winningest HBCU football program, had never participated in the national playoffs, choosing to play Alabama State in the annual Turkey Day Classic.  This year, TU opted not to play in the classic and received a berth in the Division II Playoffs, a historic moment for the program.  Unfortunately, the Golden Tigers fell to North Alabama 30-27.

TSU isn’t the only team to have won a first round game.  Winston-Salem State, looking to get back to the Division II national championship game, defeated Slippery Rock 27-20 on November 23, but lost a heart breaker in the second round to Shepherd 7-0 on Saturday.

The season will come to an end for the SWAC on Saturday as Southern and Jackson State will play in the SWAC championship game in Houston at Reliant Stadium, home of the Texans.

Coach’s firings
This is a joyous time of year, but not always the case in college football.  This is the time of year when decisions are made on coaches, especially ones with expiring contracts.

A couple of coaches will not have their contracts renewed including Alabama A&M’s Anthony Jones and Morgan State’s Donald Hill-Eley.  Both coaches served 12 seasons at their respective schools.

Jones had an 87-53 record, leading AAMU to one SWAC championship title and three other appearances.  More than that he graduated players and his team had the highest academic scores amongst SWAC schools.  The Bulldogs were 4-8 this season, only the third losing season during his tenure.

Hill-Eley had a 59-76 record, which on paper doesn’t look great.  However, prior to his arrival in 2002, in the previous 20 years, MSU had a combined record of 23-157-1.  Last November, Hill-Eley accidentally received an email outlining the administration’s plan to find his replacement. Ultimately, the university agreed to honor the final year of his contract.  Knowing that Hill-Eley would probably not be back for 2014, MSU has not named an interim head coach nor formed a committee to find his replacement.

Bayou Classic numbers up
While other HBCU football classics attendance continues to fall, the Bayou Classic, held annually in New Orleans, is on the rise.  In the five years prior to Hurricane Katrina, the classic’s average attendance was 70,198.  In 2011, the game drew its second lowest attendance of 40,178.  The game has seen an increase the last three years, and celebrated the 40th matchup this past Saturday with an attendance of 47,385.  This year’s classic ranked second in best attended classics this year only behind the Florida Classic played in Orlando which had in excess of 63,000 in attendance.

The Bayou Classic committee has done a tremendous job marketing the game locally and nationally and bringing in celebrities including Doug E. Fresh and Kevin Hart this year.

By the way, Southern defeated Grambling 40-17.

You can follow Donal Ware on Twitter @dware1 and @boxtorow

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