Is Norfolk State the MEAC’s Most Dominant Program?
You get the sense that Norfolk State’s 2011-12 sports year isn’t so much a strange sweep of luck, but a convergence of talent and patience. Spartan football finished the season with its best record in 27 years and its first MEAC championship. NSU men’s basketball team is off to its best start in school history, and 15-5 overall and 7-0 in conference play, the Spartans not only have a chance at a MEAC basketball title, but an accompanying national top 25 ranking to match.
A sweep of this year’s men’s and women’s cross-country championships adds to a long run of competitive strength in men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field. Perhaps now may be the time to preempt usual sports hyperbole with a fact-based question:
Is Norfolk State the dominant sports program in the MEAC?
It’s easy to disregard a program when the majority of its success comes outside of the money-making sports. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is a two-time NCAA national champion in women’s bowling, unbeknownst to many outside of bowling culture or the Shore campus.
So now that the Spartans have elevated football and basketball to the level of their other sports, its reasonable to judge them among the elite athletic programs in black college sports. And what they’ve built hasn’t been at the sacrifice of academic performance or constant turnover in leadership. The Green and Gold has reached the top through solid recruiting and outreach to alumni and surrounding communities.
Will it take a MEAC basketball championship to confirm elite status for the Spartans? For some MEAC die-hards, even that may not be enough. It will be hard for some to look past South Carolina State’s recent football legacy, Bethune-Cookman’s recent return to prominence on the gridiron, or Morgan State’s run in men’s basketball.
But an honest look at the total health of an athletic program would make any genuine sports fan take notice of Norfolk State. Championship contention across a number of sports, academic proficiency, and a growing imprint with national pollsters makes Spartan athletics a site to behold.