By George Napier Barnes, III
It is my belief, especially in sporting competition, that no matter how hard and long you shake up something, when it’s all said and done, the cream (best teams) will always rise to top.
With less than a month remaining in the 2022 HBCU Football season the shake ups during conference and division play have separated the contenders from the pretenders. In the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), Coach Prime’s Jackson State Tigers have proven to be the class of the East Division, if not the entire conference. The undefeated Tigers (8-0, 5-0 SWAC) are ranked 5th in the FCS polls and have already punched their ticket to the conference championship game, barring a monumental collapse. They have a two-game lead over second place Florida A&M State University (FAMU (6-2, 4-1 SWAC) You may recall that when Jackson State played FAMU earlier in the season, several of the Rattlers’ key performers were ineligible to play for various reasons. Since the Rattlers start playing with a “full deck”, they have run-off six straight victories. It’s a text book case of too little, too late for FAMU. Prairie View A&M (5-3, 4-1 SWAC) is currently sitting on the top the SWAC West Division. It is feasonable that either Southern University or Texas Southern University (both 3-2 SWAC) can catch the Panthers. Realistically, it’s not going to happen. PVAM has a tailor made end of season schedule facing winless University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Mississippi Valley State University (both 0-5 SWAC) Alcorn State University (2-3 SWAC) may already be looking ahead to the hoops season. Texas Southern University has to defeat Jackson State this weekend and hope that PVAM loses two out of their last three games. If all of those things happen, Texas Southern COULD find themselves playing JSU again, but this time for the conference championship. But don’t count on it.
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) does not look like the Conference that has won all but one Celebration Bowl which crowns the Black College Football National Champion. Both North Carolina A&T State University (the largest HBCU enrollment wise, and Hampton University, the richest HBCU endowment wise, have moved on to whiter pastures. Did I say that? I meant greener pastures. Two conference members do not field a football team (Coppin State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Head CoachShore). The six teams that are remaining in the conference don’t have a clue. Somebody is going to float to the top and will have to face Jackson State at the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta. You may recall, South Carolina State University manhandled Jackson State last year 31-10. I am sure Coach Prime wants his reckoning.
The six football playing schools of the MEAC are jockeying for s first place finish. There will not be a MEAC championship game. Best conference record takes the marbles. With less than a month remaining in the regular season all six teams are within two games of each other. Howard University is presently in 1st place at 2-0. North Carolina Central University is ½ game back at 2-1, followed by the defending Black College National Football Champions South Carolina State University (1-1) SCSU handed NCCU its’ only lost but then turned around and gave Morgan State University its’ only win. Championship teams rise to the occasion. I expect that when the dust settles the South Carolina State Bulldogs will be in the Celebration again.
All the chatter in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) was about Virginia Union University. The Panthers were 8-0 having defeated the then second ranked team in Division 2, Valdosta State. They defeated the 3X CIAA Champions Bowie State University in OT, becoming the first conference school to defeat the Bulldogs on their home turf in over a decade. They beat my Fayetteville State University Broncos 31-28 after being down late in the game. They were moving up in the national polls. Life was good. Then last week the Panthers were upset by Chowan University 26-21. Chowan is the only PWI in the otherwise all HBCU CIAA. If the Hawks win this week against Elizabeth City State University (2-7) they will represent the North Division in the CIAA Football Championship Game in Salem, Va. VUU has to defeat arch rival Virginia State University and hope for an ECSU victory. The sad thing is that VUU could end up 9-1 and not be invited to the NCAA Division II Football Championships. That’s how the NCAA treats our member institutions. Did I mention that my Fayetteville State University Broncos has made its’ fifth straight CIAA Football Championship game. Hopefully we can bring home the gold this time.
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) is considered by those in the know as the Division II HBCU Football Conference. The CIAA is known for its’ basketball tournament. Benedict College is 9-0 and will host the conference’s football championship game next week. The Tigers will play the Tuskegee Golden Tigers (7-2) with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division II Football Tournament. BC defeated the SIAC’s defending champions Albany State University 24-20 earlier in the season. It was ASU’s only defeat to a Division 2 program. Their other loss came at the hands of FAMU a FCS school. ASU deserves a spot at the NCAA Division 2 Football championships. Like VUU they may be on the outside looking in. And as odd as it may sound, if Tuskegee wins the championship game, a one loss Benedict team may not receive an invitation to the Division II playoffs. Can you imagine an undefeated Alabama team losing to an undefeated Georgia team and the loser being omitted from the national tournament? Only in America, that’s how the NCAA treat our HBCUs.
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