Five Reasons Why More HBCU Players Aren’t Taken in the NFL Draft
[mpoverlay]An annual rite of spring time for thousands of HBCU football fans is complaining about the lack of HBCU football players being taken in the NFL Draft. This year, South Carolina State’s Christian Thompson was the sole HBCU player selected in the draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
Which, if they didn’t have a black general manager with a history of giving HBCU players a chance, may have left black colleges totally out of the draft picture.
Why is the best of Division I and II HBCU football annually left out of the draft of America’s favorite sport, when football is the cash cow and signature element of HBCU social culture? There are many reasons, but here’s five that if solved, would better help HBCUs to return to the ranks of the respectable in the eyes of NFL scouts who are the gatekeepers to the NFL Draft.
1. Lack of consistent media coverage – Save for a few outlets that regularly cover HBCU football programs – specifically the Daily Press (Norfolk State, Hampton) Jackson Clarion-Ledger (Jackson State, Alcorn State), the Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem State) and the Tallahassee Democrat (Florida A&M), there is no strong regional coverage of black college sports. Box scores and game stories aren’t enough – features and profiles have to be consistently developed for a larger audience to read and use to develop an allegiance to these teams.
This requires HBCU athletic departments to double the size of their sports information teams. Any school that wants more coverage for its football program needs at least two writers, a multi-media editor, and a public relations director. It’s easier to say than it is to carry out, obviously. But until students, alumni and community members can cheer on a team for reasons outside of the team’s tradition, players will not attract scouts attention.
2. Failure to attract young and connected coaching talent – Bethune-Cookman and Winston-Salem State have excelled in attracting younger coaches who’ve yielded great results. For HBCUs to improve their talent and product on the field, it starts with being able to attract young coaches with a record of developing talent.
To get these coaches, HBCUs must become singularly focused in the athletic fundraising efforts. They have to approach alums and supporting community with a very transparent concept – “We want to hire Coach X, and it will take $450K annually to get him, not including the salaries of his staff. Is this something to which we can commit every year for the next five years?” If alumni can’t answer the call, they can’t and won’t build the program.
3. Relationships with high school programs are lacking – HBCUs must consistently market their coaching and player clinics, sponsor high school athletic events, mentor middle school-aged boys, and reach out to high school sports writers. These efforts build local loyalty that will engage parents and coaches to encourage an great athlete to attend an HBCU. The best recruiting isn’t done with athletes; its done with members of the athlete’s inner circle.
4. Conferences must get tougher on membership requirements – The best option for all HBCUs to position for more attention and coverage is to join Division II. But given that most schools are short-sighted to the financial and media benefits of such a move, the next best choice is for leadership in the Division I HBCU conferences to demand more. Better facilities, better academic support systems, and better marketing. If member schools can’t commit to set rules that promote more exposure and program growth that leads to growing as a hub for NFL talent, they aren’t cut out to be in the conference, or in Division I.
5. HBCU presidents must make athletics their top priority – If HBCU presidents commit to sports as exactly what they are intended- a conduit for academic, social and financial development – the quicker these programs are likely to attract the kind of corporate and media support that larger PWIs enjoy. If community fundraising and student activities are created around the athletic experience, along with alumni programming and fundraising appeals, campus communities can unite around a singular concept that, in the long run, will reap larger benefits from the school than any capital campaign or marketing initiative could ever carry out.[/mpoverlay]