I love sports. I wake up with sports TV and end the day with it. No matter the day, sports are involved in one way or another. When I was looking for my college, I wanted to be on campus, for reasons other than the turn-up and accessibility to classes. The main reason I wanted to stay on campus was because of the sports. I wanted to leave my dorm and go to a game.
Now, everyone isn't in tune with sports like me. Some people might not know the rivals for each sport or the athletic company that supports the school. They might not know how the schedule works. As I entered my HBCU, I realized this. HBCU sports are fighting for exposure. If it wasn't for social media and team websites, we wouldn't really know how our HBCUs would be doing on the playing field. We need more media exposure so more people can know. Since it’s football season, I want to explain how HBCU football works. Here is your guide to HBCU Football.
How It Works
The majority of college sports in this country are governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. This organization oversees profits, player eligibility, competition, and even TV contracts. What makes the NCAA so interesting is its divisions. They divide the schools into 3 divisions: Division One, Two, and Three. They are divided by school size and the number of sports provided for both genders. In my opinion, the reason schools are divided is because of money and talent level. Division One is home to the scholarships and perks of being a talented athlete. But as you go down the scale from Division Two and Three, some schools might be more simple in their athletic affairs.
This is where it gets complicated: not every HBCU Football Program plays on the Division One level. Many schools are on the Division Two level. And some schools aren't even a part of the NCAA. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), is the 2nd largest collegiate sports organization in the country. And yes, HBCU schools are in the organization as well. With so many schools, conferences are needed to separate them.
There are four main football conferences for that involve HBCUs: The MEAC, SWAC, CIAA, and SIAC.
The MEAC is home to a few notable schools such as Howard, North Carolina A&T, and Florida A&M Universities. The conference includes schools that are mostly in the Mid-Atlantic area of Delaware, DC, Maryland, and Virginia while the rest of the conference is located in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. When it pertains to football, the MEAC competes in the Division 1 FCS. The FCS is the part of Division One that competes in a playoff tournament instead of the end of season Bowl Games. The SWAC is the home of Southern, Grambling, and Jackson State. The conference is spread into the 5 states of Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. When it pertains to football, the SWAC competes in the Division 1 FCS like the MEAC as well.
What makes these two conferences so special is their partnership. Both conferences meet each other in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge at the beginning of the season. And at the end of the season, both conferences meet again the Celebration Bowl. Both games are broadcasted by ESPN, which is pretty much the best channel that your game can be broadcasted on. What makes the Celebration Bowl so important is that it technically determines the best Division 1 HBCU team in the country. Since both conferences send their best teams to this game, whoever wins can call themselves the HBCU Football National Champions. I’ll take it.
The CIAA is a Division Two conference. The conference is spread across Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. This conference is the home of some schools like Bowie State, Shaw, Winston-Salem State, and more. Since this is a D2 Conference, the teams compete in the NCAA Division Two football tournament. Usually, the CIAA sends one or two teams to the tournament. An HBCU has not won a D2 National Title in Football but the hope will always be there.
The SIAC is also in Division Two with the CIAA. The conference has members in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, and South Carolina. The SIAC is home of notable schools like Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, and Tuskegee. The conference competes in the Division Two Conference Tournament as well as the CIAA.
The SWAC, SIAC, CIAA are all divided into two divisions. The division winners are matched up against each other to determine a conference champion. The MEAC determine their champion by the conference win and loss records of each team.
Former & Current Champions
Before the HBCU Football Season starts, let’s recap the winners of each conference for the past three seasons. You can’t go to a game and not know who the best teams are in the conference!
MEAC: Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State (2013 Co-Champions), BCU, Morgan, NC A&T, NCCU, SC State (2014 Co-Champions), Bethune-Cookman, NC A&T, NCCU (2015 Co-Champions)
SWAC: Southern (2013), Alcorn State (2014), Alcorn State (2015)
CIAA: 2013 No Champion, Virginia State (2014), Winston-Salem State (2015)
SIAC: Albany State (2013), Tuskegee (2014), Miles (2015)
HBCU Football is complicated. I hope this guide will be useful as the season starts in a few weeks. Let the better teams win!
Lead Photo Credit: Tom Woodward via Flickr Creative Commons