15 Mar

As I watched the NCAA Tournament bracket unfold on Sunday, one thing bothered me more than it probably should.  Once again, the MEAC champion was relegated to a 16 seed and being forced to play its first round game against a #1 seed.   To add insult to injury, the Hampton Pirates would be traveling to Charlotte, NC to face perennial national contender Duke.  The SWAC champion, Alabama State, has to play on Wednesday for the opportunity to face #1 Ohio State, in Cleveland, on Thursday.  This made me wonder, why are conferences made up of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) often among the worst in the country?  Why is there such a disparity in talent between the HBCUs and other universities?

There was a time when Black players weren’t allowed to play at White institutions.  In those times the best players had no recourse but to play at HBCUs.  After the major conferences were integrated more often than not, the best players went to play at larger schools with higher profiles.  Now HBCUs struggle to even field teams that are competitive within college basketball.  How did it happen that institutions developed to educate Black people when there was no alternative have become the last resort for college athletes?

I grew up in the A Different World era (and to a lesser extent the School Daze era) and I saw positive depictions of the Black college experience.  On film relationships and the social scene are highlighted while giving some insight in the fraternity and sorority experiences.  One thing they didn’t show was athletics.  Sports often provided the framework of the story but were never a central part of the Black college experience as depicted on film.  A central part of School Daze is homecoming weekend and the low point of the experience is the game where Mission College’s football team is whipped handily by their opponent.  This is the reality all too often at HBCUs.

Athletic programs at HBCUs are often mediocre and poorly run.  The shoddy administration of these programs lends to a lack of exposure.  In a society where many young Black athletes have professional aspirations,  lack of exposure makes them undesirable to anyone that really thinks they have a chance (and let’s be honest most athletes believe they have a chance, no matter how minuscule).  We all know that good money lies in having good athletic programs.  Go look at any campus that’s won any sort of championship in the past few years.  Every new related building or program is likely the result of the success of their athletic program.  A winning team is free advertising for a university.  You can directly correlate increasing enrollments to athletic successes.  Winning teams also invoke a sense of pride in the alumni which typically leads to increased giving.  So why don’t HBCUs put real support behind them?  At some point the administration of these schools has to realize that there are many benefits to financially supporting the athletic programs. Benefits that extend well beyond the courts and playing fields.

I really cannot blame an athlete for choosing Florida State over Florida A&M or Auburn over Alabama State in this day and age.  But when an athlete chooses Davidson, Belmont, or Wofford over Southern or Hampton you have to start to ask questions.   I don’t think it’s as simple as the White man’s ice being colder as much as it’s about the HBCUs offering inferior opportunities.  Are the HBCUs content to be in last place and reap none of the benefits of having successful athletic programs.  Will we have to continue to relieve the good old days of Black and White when discussing athletic achievements?  Will we have to be glad to “just get in” to tournaments and post season events?  As a proud graduate of The University of Maryland – Eastern Shore, I sincerely hope not.


Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Alba, Basketball, NCAA


Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “HBCUs – WAKE UP!!

  1. skrapdiggy

    March 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I really don’t think that it’s as important a facet of school life at HBCU’s to have good athletic programs against anyone but other HBCU’s. On the football front there’s even been talk of removing the MEAC/SWAC out of the 1-AA playoff picture every year and just determining a “Black College National Championship” instead of the yearly beatdown they get in the NCAA Football playoffs every year. If that ain’t waving the white flag I’m not sure what is.

    I didn’t go to an HBCU but my friends that are alumni/supporters say the same thing. Poorly run, poorly funded, and badly supported. It’s more about the experience than the result, more about halftime than the game that surrounds it. But more than anything it’s about the 18 year olds that visit the campus and see what a school has to offer. I won’t even use the Florida State or Miami example, hell when a student goes and visits Wofford or Coastal Carolina, sees a weight room that’s brand new, sees a stadium with a 40 foot jumbotron, and an athletic dorm that could be a hotel then goes down the road to South Carolina State or Hampton and compares then the choice is easy to 18 year old eyes. These are schools that have equal enrollments and in the case of the two PWC colleges in the example LESS history than any HBCU but they are still lagging. It just speaks to poor management and sad foresight.

    I believe young black athletes are willing to go to these institutions but if you’re showing them something that is clearly less than then they will keep choosing elsewhere… and the 16 seeds will continue to arrive.

  2. tamblyn

    March 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Sad to say it’s the same as football. The HBCU’s cannot offer what the top programs are offering. My alma mater ASU is in the process of building a new sports complex and our own stadium. It still will not be able to compare to schools like Alabama & Auburn but it’s better than what we currently have. They will always get what’s left of the top players who didn’t meet the NCAA Clearinghouse requirements to get in a top program. I also forgot the lack of TV appreances the HBCUs get. At least ESPN2 & U did show some great HBCU match ups this season in football & basketball.

  3. Toye

    March 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    The big universities are able to offer scholarships (athletic/merit) for talent. So some of the best and brightest are taking those offers. Unfortunately, the talent goes where the financial promise and exposure lies. The HBCU experience is fantastic (well most of it). It would be great to have more athletic talent ushered to these very special destinations of higher learning – just as long as the students don’t have to stand for days in the registration and validation lines. (HA!)


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: