By George Napier Barnes, III
I have to open up this article with a disclosure. The views in this piece are mine. I have studied this subject matter for years and have come to the conclusion (as I have written before) that the NCAA is not our friend. I am on record for stating as much. It has been my observation that each year, regardless of the sport, our HBCU conference champion(s) are sat up to lose in the NCAA National Championship Tournament(s). If I had my preference all champions from our two HBCU Division II athletic conferences (the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) will play for the Black College Division II National Championship. The two Division I athletic conferences (the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) should do the same. The Celebration Bowl pitting the SWAC football Champions against the MEAC football Champions crowns the Division I Black College National Football Champions. Maybe the Division II HBCU conference should do the same. We should also afford our student/athletes participating in basketball, softball, volleyball, and all other sanctioned sports the opportunity to win a national title. Our student/athletes deserve as much.
Last week was full of emotion for me. On the upside my Fayetteville State University Bronco football team finally won the CIAA football title. After four straight losses in the championship game the Broncos pulled out a dramatic victory kicking a FG as time expired. We defeated Chowan University (not an HBCU) 31-28. For years I was under the impression that our conference champions got an automatic bid to the NCAA championship tournament. After all the CIAA champion always qualified for this event.
This year, and after we had nailed down the title, I learned that D2 doesn’t offer an automatic bid to conference champions for this tournament. (They do for every other sport). Teams are chosen by a poll from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). Somehow I now believe what our orange president once said, “The polls are rigged.”
The voting is by region, of which there are four super regions for football. Each region has seven teams admitted to the tournament. The top seven vote getters get to go. This is a faulted system. And we all know, WE never get the benefit of a doubt.
Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) FSU, as the CIAA champion made it as the seventh seed in the region. Even with a 9-2 record the Broncos only garnered 11 votes. They will have to travel to Cleveland (the one in Mississippi) to face Delta State University (10-1) a co-champion in the Gulf South Conference (GSC). The GSC has eight football playing member. Of the eight, FIVE have losing conference and overall records. Not one of the other five won more than THREE games in conference. How strong could the conference be? Delta State was ranked 9th with 484 votes. Co-Champion West Florida was ranked 5th with 585 votes. Third place West Georgia was ranked 16th. They received 310 votes. Did I say Fayetteville State only received 11 votes?
Virginia Union University (9-1) did not make the CIAA Championship game. The Panthers were upset by Chowan. Still they received 366 votes and was ranked 14th in the polls. VUU received a home playoff game against #22 Wingate University (9-2). It’s ironic that FSU losses came at the hands of VUU and Wingate.
Benedict College (11-0) 566 votes destroyed Tuskegee University 58-21 in the SIAC Championship Game. The Tigers have a 1st round bye. I believe that’s a first for an HBCU. They will host the winner of the VUU-Wingate game. On the outside looking in will be the Albany State University Rams (8-2) ASU loss to Benedict 24-20 earlier in the season and dropped a close contest to a FCS team, Florida A&M. The Rams only got 9 votes in the polls. Benedict vs. Fayetteville St. would be a great match up. Maybe, just maybe a CIAA Champion vs. a SIAC Champion will meet before the SWAC Champion lock horns with the MEAC Champion at the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta. Our kids deserve to be able to compete for a national title on the field, and not in the polls.
North Carolina Central University (8-2) has punched its ticket to represent the MEAC in this year’s Celebration Bowl. The Eagles are the only MEAC team to lose in what is billed up to be the Black College Football Championship Game. They were on the short end of a 10-9 score to Grambling State University. Jackson State University (10-0) has punched its ticket to the SWAC championship game. It is predicted that Coach Prime’s Tigers will be facing Prairie View A&M (6-4) in that contest of division leaders. That’s IF the Panthers do not slip up and be upset by Mississippi Valley State University (1-9) this weekend. It should be interesting. If Jackson State run the table, there will still be people who will wonder what would have happened if the Tigers had played Florida A & M State University when the Rattlers had a full deck of cards. The two teams met when FAMU was short handed because of issues with some players being ruled ineligible to play by the NCAA. FAMU (8-2) has won 8 straight since that situation has been corrected.
George Napier Barnes, III is a proud alumni of historically black college or university (HBCU) Fayetteville State University, Kappa Alpha Psi, and currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Want your life a little sweeter?
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