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HBCU Game Time

HBCU Football: A Year In Review

C.

That is the grade I would give this year’s HBCU football season.  It was just an average season.

There were some great individual efforts, but nothing like what we saw in more recent memory–for example back in 2005 when Grambling quarterback Bruce Eugene threw for close to 4,000 yards, 48 touchdowns and just six interceptions – one of the most prolific seasons in I-AA/FCS history – as the Tigers went 11-1 and were named Black College national champions.

Is HBCU football on the decline from a fan enthusiast and talent perspective? The attendance at games may indicate so, particularly with Classic games.  The Bayou Classic and MEAC/SWAC Challenge were one of the few classics whose numbers were up from a year ago.

The Good
Winston-Salem State, Bethune-Cookman, Tennessee State, Tuskegee and South Carolina State all made NCAA post season appearances.  Tennessee State received an almost improbable at-large berth and made the most of it defeating Butler 31-0, before falling in the second round to conference rival Eastern Illinois 51-10. Winston-Salem State also won a first round game, defeating Slippery Rock 27-20 before falling in round two to Shepherd 7-0.

Tuskegee made history making the playoffs for the first time in history and lost a close game to perennial power North Alabama 30-27.

In 1999, we saw multiple FCS HBCUs make the postseason (Tennessee State, North Carolina A&T, and Florida A&M) with North Carolina A&T winning one game (defeating TSU) and Florida A&M winning two games, before falling in the semifinals.

The Bad
As I stated, it was an average overall season for HBCU football and this next statistic backs it up.  Of the 53 teams in HBCU football, 30 teams had records under .500.  That is a clip of 57 percent.  As a matter of fact, two teams didn’t win a single game as both Cheyney and West Virginia State went 0-11.

The Ugly
The fiasco at the CIAA championship luncheon between Virginia State and Winston-Salem State which led to the cancellation of the game and to the conference declaring Virginia State ineligible for post season was by far the ugliest event of the football season and one of the uglier events in recent memory.  The conference indicated back in November it was investigating the incident and must still be as no official findings have come forth from the league.  Winston-Salem State University filed a formal complaint against Virginia State with the CIAA and NCAA.

The incident received national coverage and it was not they way I envisioned my first appearance on ESPN, but I was invited to be on “Outside The Lines” to talk about the incident:

Update on Coaching Changes
In case you missed it, Connell Maynor left Winston-Salem State and was introduced as the new head coach at Hampton on December 20.  Maynor was 45-6 at WSSU with three-straight CIAA championships, two HBCU national championships and runner-up in the Division II national championship in 2012.

North Carolina Central hired Jerry Mack as its new head man.  This is Mack’s first head coaching position and he spent the last two seasons as wide receivers coach at South Alabama.  Mack, 33, is the third-youngest Division I head football coach.

In a bit of a surprise move, Jackson State fired head coach Rick Comegy.  Comegy was 55-35 in eight seasons at JSU and led the Tigers to the SWAC championship in 2007.  He had a year remaining on his contract.  Comegy has an overall record of 171–87–2 and led Central State to the NAIA national championship in 1995.

Grambling hired Broderick Fobbs as its new coach.  Fobbs is a graduate of GSU and played for the legendary Eddie Robinson.  He was most recently the tight ends coach at McNeese State.

Edward Waters hired Alvin Wyatt as its head coach. Formerly the defensive coordinator, he took over as head coach when Brad Bernard was fired.  He served as head football at his alma mater Bethune-Cookman from 1997-2009 where he compiled a record of 90-54.

In addition to Jackson State and Winston-Salem State, coaching vacancies remain at Alabama A&M, Morgan State, Mississippi Valley State, Central State, and Virginia Union.

Have a safe and wonderful New Year and I’ll talk with you in 2014.

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

Please share your thoughts at digitalpitches@ebony.com.