HBCU football fans should enjoy the next two weeks of black college football, because they will be the start of what could be a new culture of exposure and performance at Division I and II levels of our schools competing at high levels.
WSSU and TU have been giving HBCU football fans all they could ask for from black college football for the better part of the last five years. Three out of the last four CIAA football conference championships belong to the Winston-Salem State University Rams, and without an unfortunate brawl during the 2013 championship week banquet, WSSU would likely have four out of the last five.
Tuskegee University has won five of the last ten SIAC championships in the last ten years, and without an upset loss to Kentucky State University at homecoming, could’ve had its six.
Two contemporary HBCU football dynasties and regular participants in the playoffs. WSSU advanced to the NCAA Division II national title game in 2012, and Tuskegee advanced to the national quarterfinals last year.
They are two of our best programs headed back in the NCAA playoffs this week, both entering as 7th seeded competition against familiar PWI foes. There is more than a good chance both schools could win, and with momentum and Black Jesus smiling down upon both in a post-Trump America, could face each other in the national title game with two improbable-but-not-impossible runs through the brackets.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), the MEAC and SWAC will make it even harder to pay attention to whatever success WSSU and Tuskegee post in the next two weeks, because the respective Division I conferences will likely be settled by two in-state, rivalry game football classics; the Bayou Classic between Grambling and Southern, and the Aggie-Eagle classic between North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central.
The winners of both will likely be pitted against each other in the ESPN bowl season kickoff Celebration Bowl, which in its second year, is likely to get even greater returns on fan attendance and advertisers than it saw in year one.
It appears that we are approaching a golden era of HBCU football, but we can only hope that the emerging black digital media voice and its infatuation with black colleges will take advantage of the opportunity. We need people outside of the HBCU orbit to get to know coaching names like Willie Slater and Kienus Boulware, and players like Lenard Tillery and Devante Kincade.
We need HBCU Gameday, Onnidan, HBCU Sports, BoxToRow and the Heritage Sports Radio Network, to explode as the go-to resources for seeing our players and coaches, hearing their voices, and earning the support of local, regional and national advertisers for their outstanding coverage of our programs — which they can only do if you visit and read their content everyday.
We really need to develop a fanatic culture behind our schools and athletic traditions, taking them on the road to Newberry, SC, Brookville, NY and Atlanta to show the country that we aren’t poor black people who RV, show up and show out for homecoming, but not when the bright lights and television cameras are on a neutral field.
Despite all of the complaining about competing for championships versus playing in a bowl game, the lamentations about why and if we should play humiliating money games against BCS competition, the inequity of the NCAA in its oversight of HBCU athletic membership and compliance, the gripes about refereeing and other stereotypes about the quality of athletes and coaching, the black college football product is dramatically increasing.
For your money, HBCU football is still the best, most affordable college football product for a family, the best atmosphere for black high school kids to see what game day culture looks like in our context, and worthy of support.
Now is the time to actually go out and do it. Support — because you’ve been complaining about it for years, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, you actually have a product worth supporting at multiple HBCUs.