HBCU Scoreboard Vol. VI: The NCAA is not our Friend

By: G. Napier Barnes III

It’s the first week of October.  By now teams are beginning to separate in their conference standings. Good teams began to float to the top.  Not so good teams began to sink into “wait until next year” mode.  Still a few teams will hang around hoping a win here, and some good luck there, and they can make it to the ultimate goal. Making the playoffs and playing for a championship. 

Unfortunately, it has been my observation, that the most an HBCU can hope for is a conference championship, an a HBCU conference at that.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on my opinion, does everything that it can to make sure that one of our schools cannot be crowned as a national champion.   I am not just talking about football.  Volleyball, men and women basketball, tennis, baseball, softball, jack rocks and marbles all fall into a familiar pattern once they have won a conference title.  Somehow each one of our champions in the NCAA National tournament (again you can pick a sport) will have to play the number one team in the nation, in the first round, and usually on that teams’ home field/floor.

I understand that to be the best, you have to beat the best. But come on NCAA.  Why do all of our champions meet this fate each and every year, and in every sport?  The NCAA (which stands for No Championships for African Americans in my book) will make two claims in defending is history.  First and foremost, they will claim that our teams do not play a strong schedule.   It is almost impossible for us to play a “strong schedule.” Teams that we have a chance of beating refuses to play us.  And if they do play us, it will be on their home floor/field.  Statistics will tell you that a home court/field advantage is worth 10 points.  If an HBCU is good enough to cover that spread, you are not going to be scheduled.  

So, what happens when one of our HBCU champions play a “strong “out of conference schedule which normally would merit a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament?  That’s when the NCAA hit us with a second hurdle.  Said school would have to bid to host a first-round contest. The bid is guaranteed money for the NCAA.   Most HBCUs are out bided by larger PWIs and are unable to host a NCAA playoff game.

You may be asking, where am I going with this information? I am going to be Nostradamus and will predict what’s going to happen to my hometown HBCU Virginia Union University.  The Panthers are now 4-0. A couple weeks ago they went down to Valdosta GA and beat the 2nd ranked team in Division II, Valdosta State University.  VSU dropped a couple spots in the polls.  Virginia Union did not reach the top twenty.  Last week VSU was destroyed by a ranked team.  VUU moved up to 12th in the nation.  If Union win out, and capture the CIAA championship, they (most likely) will have to hit the road for a first-round game.  If the Panthers win out but loses in the CIAA Championship Game, they would be 10-1 and home for Christmas.  To date, the NCAA has only allowed one CIAA member in their Division II football tournament.

In the NCAA Football Championship Sub-division (FCS) Jackson State University is ranked 8th nationally.  The Tigers have a great team, though this may be a down year for the rest of the SWAC.  I think Coach Prime is bringing a lot of eyes on his program.  If JSU win out and take the SWAC Football championship the team would be slated to represent the conference in the Celebration Bowl, which is for the Black College Football National Championship. JSU lost that game last year to South Carolina State University of the MEAC.  Now here’s the kicker. If JSU continues to win. And they stay ranked in the top ten, will the school decide to return to the Celebration Bowl, or will they decide to accept an invitation to the NCAA FCS tournament?   If they choose the later, will they get a home game? I am sure some of the PWIs can out bid JSU. Or will the Tigers be sent packing to the number one team in the nation (because the SWAC is not strong) and a quick exit from the playoffs?

Ironically, The Celebration Bowl was established so that HBCUs can play a game with a national title on the line.  To Jackson State I say stay the course.  Our student/athletes should have the opportunity to play for a championship. 

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George Napier Barnes, III is a proud alumni of HBCU, Fayetteville State University, Kappa Alpha Psi. He currently lives in Phoenix. Arizona.
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