I want to begin this post by saying that I am writing from a place of neutrality.
I did not attend a Historical Black College and University. For those who know me (or who just read the bio), know that I attended what would be considered a predominately white institution, although I wouldn’t consider the University of North Carolina at Pembroke a PWI either since it was founded by the Lumbee Native America tribe but that’s neither here or there.
Both my sisters and a cousin did attend North Carolina Central University and met their husbands (well, one of my sisters met her husband) there and I did cover both Virginia Union and Virginia State as a beat writer (loosely stating) while a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was at the RTD that I was re-introduced, if you will, into the HBCU culture and was welcomed into the HBCU family by, if no one else, my media brethren.
And for that, I am very appreciative and thankful.
So the words that appear next are not written out of malice or to scold HBCU football specifically. The words that appear next is a criticism of the overall mentality and complexities of the system.
As GQ (not Jamla’s Quentin Thomas) stated: “If you want respect, you gotta earn it.”
On Sunday, this occurred:
The Celebration Bowl was agreed upon by the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference to pit their conference champions against one another to showcase the two biggest HBCU NCAA Division I conferences on a national platform on one of ESPN’s array of networks and to earn the conferences $1 million per. However, in doing so, both the MEAC and SWAC forfeited their automatic bids into the FCS playoffs. It also meant that there was no HBCU representation on the selection committee.
And the result, HBCUs were excluded from the FCS playoffs altogether.
No surprise there.
There are a number of issues. For starters, the game is being played on December 19th. This is blatant disrespect to the NCAA bowl season but any bowl that is played before Christmas, get zero viewership from me and I suspect that ESPN scheduled it then because they also feel that there won’t be many viewers tuning in. It’s a numbers game right? So if the viewership is suspect, it may give ESPN a reason to not renew the contract in the future.
Another issue is the NCAA’s disrespect of HBCUs. To not include a 9-2 Bethune-Cookman team over, say, a 6-5 Western Illinois team is an absolute travesty. And granted, Division II is more inclusionary with three HBCUs making it into the playoffs in 2015 but that’s more of an affirmative action … action than the norm. It demonstrates the old man mentality that the NCAA continues to harbor after all these years to say that ‘you black folks aren’t worthy to dance at our ball.’
Which brings me to the primary problem. The giving up of the automatic bid. HBCU Gameday made the point that the MEAC hasn’t won a playoff game since 1999, which is why the Celebration Bowl appeared to the best option. Neither the MEAC or SWAC has won a NCAA basketball championship in this millennium but have they given up their automatic bid to ‘The Dance?’
But giving up the automatic qualifier is sending the wrong message to group of peoples who are facing an uphill societal climb as is.
The message that the MEAC and the SWAC is delivering is that it’s OK to give up on your dreams. As a collegiate athlete, you always compete to win national championships. You select programs that you feel will give you the best opportunity to achieve that goal. But the MEAC and SWAC are telling its football players that there is a ceiling and that ceiling is a trip to Atlanta to visit the King Center and a meaningless trophy. That message of you can only go but so far is counterintuitive to a community that needs every positive reinforcement they can give in this time of turmoil, in this time when they’re seemingly under attack by everybody.
We have to many black males being handcuffed as is — no need adding 700 more to the number.
If you want respect, you have to earn it. So what neither conference has had any success in the playoffs; they shouldn’t quit trying. The only way to be included is to go out there on the field and get it.