HBCU Game Time: Aggie Pride!!
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!
Over the last few years, there has been much talk as to whether the MEAC and to a lesser degree the SWAC should opt out of playing in the national Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs. Should the leagues play each other for a Division I HBCU national championship? (My argument has always been you can’t even think about having a true champion if Tennessee State, who plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, is not involved.)
An argument that has also come up is can Division II HBCUs compete against their FCS counterparts? Programs like Winston-Salem State who played for the Division II national championship last year and Tuskegee who beat Alabama A&M 23-7 on Saturday prove it can be done.
Should HBCU FCS schools take guaranteed money for what is sure to be a blowout loss against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools? The range of money depends upon the opponent and can fall in the $300,000-$500,000 range. But besides the money, how does it really help your program?
South Carolina State, Norfolk State, Alcorn State, Savannah State, and Grambling took lopsided losses to FBS schools last Saturday. As a matter of fact in the last two years Savannah State has been outscore 205-3 in three games versus FBS opponents and still has to play the University of Miami on September 21.
Last Saturday, North Carolina A&T showed you can win the game and take the money.
The Aggies’ 24-21 win at perennial power and nationally ranked Appalachian State is a big deal.
“It was a sweet win,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “As you walk around [this] place, they’ve won three national championships in eight years, they’ve won seven out of the last eight conference championships. Hopefully this will be the start of something good. But the bottom line is, it’s still just one game.”
And that is typically how Broadway approaches things. He puts things in perspective. Always has, whether at North Carolina Central where his teams won two-straight CIAA championships (in 2005 and 2006, the two years before NCCU moved to FCS and ultimately the MEAC) or as head coach at Grambling.
There are many reasons why this win is big for North Carolina A&T and for HBCU football as a whole. For the Aggies, they avenge a 58-6 beating to App State two years ago. It is their first win against a non-HBCU in nine years. It is their first win against a ranked opponent in 10 years.
Next year App State will move up to FBS, and during this transition they can have a maximum of 75 scholarships. A&T has 50.
Furthermore, the Aggies were not able to have a spring practice for the second year in a row, due to low Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, a situation Broadway inherited. Prior to his arrival in 2011, A&T won just one game in 2010.
“As you call around the country and ask people how you prepare a team without practice no one has an answer for you,” Broadway said jokingly.
This was also a big win for HBCU football, particularly on the FCS level. As I wrote about last week, HBCUs were 0-13 against non-HBCUs two weeks ago. This past week was better overall because it was the first week teams from the CIAA and SIAC could play. HBCUs won three games against, non-HBCU schools but FCS HBCU schools were 1-11 against non-HBCUs.
You know where the one win came from.
Prior to the game against the Mountaineers, Broadway told me, ”It’s going to take an Appalachian State/Michigan type effort to beat those guys, but we’re going to go up there and compete and hopefully we can beat them.”
In the sports world, this win is not akin to what the Mountaineers did to Michigan in 2007, defeating the then No. 5 ranked Wolverines 34-32 in The Big House.
In this thing we call HBCU (Black College) Football, it’s close. Plus, A&T got a guarantee of $150,000 to play the game from App State.