Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Citing Focus on the Celebration Bowl, SWAC Decides to End Conference Title Game After 2017 Season


After this season, the regular season Southwestern Athletic Conference football  champions from the East and West divisions won't be meeting in a league championship game.

Tuesday, SWAC officials said the annual Toyota SWAC Championship game, held in Houston since 2013, is being phased out after the 2017 season.  It has been held since 1999, starting in Birmingham, Ala.

"With the creation of the Celebration Bowl as a national showcase for HBCU football, the Council of Presidents and Chancellors decided to suspend the championship game format after the 2017 season," said SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp.  "By focusing on the Celebration Bowl, we can continue to grow the [Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl] as an HBCU classic for the teams and fans of both conferences and for HBCU football nationally."

Ten teams play in the SWAC, with Grambling winning the championship game and the Celebration Bowl last season.  Their Celebration Bowl opponent last season was North Carolina Central.  Eleven of the MEAC's 13 member schools play football.  The conference doesn't have a championship game and isn't split in divisions.

While the SWAC champion had been determined by the title game since 1999, after this season, the champion will be determined by who has the best regular season conference record.  Conference school administrators, coaches and SWAC officials will work on a new tie-breaker format and scheduling format.

The Celebration Bowl is heading into its third year of hosting the champions of the SWAC and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.  The game, telecast in mid-December by ESPN, is one of 13 college football bowl games owned and operated by ESPN Events each year.

Often called the HBCU national championship, there is no actual HBCU championship game, especially as the only HBCU teams eligible to play in the Celebration Bowl come from the SWAC and MEAC.  That leaves out independents like Tennessee State and Division II HBCU football teams such as Tuskegee and Winston-Salem State.  The NCAA doesn't recognize an HBCU champion either.

The move allows the SWAC to get away from the cost of staging a week-long championship event and game day.  Attendance for the  SWAC title games held in Houston at NRG Stadium hovered around 39-40,000 fans the first three years, dropping to just under 25,000 fans this past season when Grambling defeated Alcorn State.  This year's game will be held in the new Mercedes Benz Dome in Atlanta.

Prairie View A&M head football coach Willie Simmons told the Houston Chronicle that the move could also mean the need to move from seven conference games to nine.

"Personally, I think if you play nine, it works itself out," Simmons told the paper.  "Everyone plays everyone and the best team eventually comes out on top. If you decrease it to seven, like our current format, then you run into, 'Well, we didn't play this team and this team that won a championship didn't have to play a tougher schedule.' So I think there are some discussions that have to be had moving forward."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Charleston Southern Offensive Coordinator Gabe Giardina Named Albany State's New Football Coach


Gabe Giardina, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Charleston Southern, has been named head coach at Albany State University, school officials announced Monday.

It will be the first head coaching job for Giardina, who was in the fifth season of his second stint at Charleston Southern.  He was the special teams coordinator and running backs coach from 2008-2011. He was offensive coordinator at Delta State in 2012 before returning to Charleston Southern.

"We are going to be a bright light in this community that alums and community members will be proud of by the way our young men compete on the field and by the way they conduct themselves off the field," said Giardina, who also said he wants the Golden Rams to be "Albany's team."

"It is our goal that all our players have the type of experience that truly transforms their lives and puts them on a path to do the same for others, all while bringing home championships to southwest Georgia," he said.

Giardina's multiple offense led Charleston Southern to 36 wins over a four year period, most in that program's history.  Charleston Southern won Big South Conference championships in 2015 and 2016 and was ranked 14th in the NCAA FCS Coaches Poll last season.

Giardina replaces Dan Land, a former assistant who took over the football program two years ago when longtime ASU head coach Mike White took the Benedict head coaching job. Land, had been an assistant at Albany State since 2002 and was a star running back for the Golden Rams in the 1980s.

His team went 6-4 in 2015 when when he was the interim head coach.  He was given the permanent position in June 2016. ASU went 5-4 season in 2016.  The Golden Rams lost their final game to Fort Valley State in a battle for a spot in the SIAC Championship Game.

Land, who served as ASU's athletic director in the past, will remain on the University's faculty.

Giardina is familiar with the state of Alabama as he was a student and graduate assistant for University of Alabama head coaches Mike Shula and Nick Saban. Giardina also played for the Crimson Tide from 2000-2003.

"Gabe did a great job for us at the University of Alabama, and we appreciate his contributions to the program," Saban said. "The characteristics that made him a good coach while he was here will make him a successful coach at Albany State and we wish him the best of luck."

More than 100 people applied for the position, with that number narrowed down to four recently. Athletics Director Sherie Gordon and President Art Dunning both said they found the right man.  He also becomes the second white football coach at an SIAC school, joining the 2016 Coach of the Year John L. Smith of Kentucky State.

"We wanted a strong leader with a plan and genuine passion about the social and academic development of our young men," Gordon said. "We wanted someone committed to recruiting in the state and in the bordering states. We wanted someone who could connect with our student-athletes and engage positively with the University and the Albany community.  We wanted a winner. We have found that person in Gabe Giardina."

Dunning added, "Having a head football coach who is committed to building character, promoting academics as a priority and working to ensure that our players graduate into meaningful careers aligns directly with our goal for student success. I am pleased to welcome Coach Giardina and his family into to Albany State University. I look forward to working with him to develop and sustain a winning football program on and off the field of play."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Shaw Defeats Chowan to Avenge Only Conference Loss and Win CIAA Tennis Title


Shaw's women's tennis team avenged their only Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association loss this season when they defeated top-seeded Chowan to win the CIAA Women's Tennis Championship this past weekend.

Shaw went 12-1 in the CIAA, their lone loss coming to Chowan in late March.  But singles wins by Daniela Vanko, Adrijana Martic and Simbiat Aleem erased a 3-2 deficit to give the Bears the championship.

Vanko was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Shaw (21-2, 13-1 CIAA) wins the CIAA's automatic bid to the Women's NCAA Tennis Tournament and finds out their seeding on Tuesday. Chowan finished the season 20-9 (14-1 CIAA) and will be watching the tournament selection show closely as they were ranked sixth in the NCAA Division II's Atlantic Region (Shaw was eighth) on April 19.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Savannah State Will Leave MEAC FCS/Division I Athletics and Drop to D-II, SSU Officials Confirm


The cost of sustaining a Division I/FCS athletics program has forced Savannah State University to drop its athletics program back down to the Division II level.

SSU President Cheryl Dozier made the announcement Monday and the school issued a statement on its athletics web site to confirm what media reports said athletes were told in a meeting with Athletic Director Sterling Steward about a pending move in 2019.

"While I am extremely proud of the progress our athletes and coaches have made at the Division I level, it is not financial feasible for us to continue," Dozier said in a statement.

According to the Savannah Morning News, Steward said to media Monday that, "The fiscal issues just didn't pan out. We didn't generate enough revenue to cover our operating expenses."

After a transition period of two years in which Savannah State will remain a member of the FCS/Division I Mid-Eastern Athletics Conference (MEAC), they will leave for Division II after the 2018-2019 school year ends.

"I wish Savannah State the best in its future endeavors as they transition from Division I to Division II," said MEAC Commissioner Dennis E. Thomas in a statement. "Dr. Dozier and her leadership team are faced with and have had tough financial decisions to make.  Again, I wish them the very best."

Savannah State left Division II in 1998 after being a 29-year member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).  SSU was a Division I/FCS independent until 2010 when they joined the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).  The Tigers participate in FCS football and Division I for all other sports.

Currently Savannah State participates in FCS (Football Championship Series, which is the former Division I-AA) and Division I athletics for all other sports.

The SSU athletics program has a $5.1 million budget, less than half of the $11.9 million average allocated budget for FCS schools, according to a 2016 Forbes story.  Division II schools which offer football have average athletic budgets of $5.3 million, according to the NCAA.  FCS schools offer 63 scholarships while Division II schools give a maximum 36,

Savannah State often put their football team on the road against much more successful and larger FBS (Football Bowl Series, formerly Division I) football teams that would completely overwhelm them on the field, but would leave a nice check for them to play.

Even that turned out to be not enough.

"Without having those kinds of large donations in the millions of dollars to support athletics, it is a strain financially," Steward said, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The school said they have been discussing this move for months and have been in talks with Division II conferences in the region.

There are two conferences featuring historically black colleges and universities and are Savannah State's most likely landing spots, though school officials won't say who they are talking to.

The SIAC has had several recent changes in their membership, and may have more as schools such as finances forced Stillman College to cut football and drop down to NAIA membership. Paine College started a football program in 2015, but the school's finances forced them to drop the program after only a year.  Spring Hill College joined the SIAC in 2015, but doesn't participate in football.  Ten of the SIAC's 14 members participate in football.

Member schools are in Georgia (5), Alabama (3) , Ohio (1), Kentucky (1), South Carolina (2)  and Tennessee (2).

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, is made up of 12 schools, eight that are in North Carolina, three in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania.

Other non-HBCU Division II conferences in the Southeast include the South Atlantic Conference, the Sunshine State Conference, the Gulf South Conference and Conference Carolinas.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Savannah State Considers Drop From FCS/Division I to Division II Athletics, Say Reports

(Photo from Savannah State athletics website)
The mounting costs of running a Division I/Football Championship Series athletic program may have become too much for Savannah State University.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school may drop down to Division II athletics in all sports in 2019, according to the Savannah Morning News.  Savannah State became a Division I/FCS member of the MEAC in 2006 after participating in Division II athletics in all sports prior to that.

The paper reported April 12 that SSU Athletic Director Sterling Steward told the school's athletes in a meeting on Wednesday night that it would be a financial move, according to SSU baseball player Turner Davis.

Savannah's ABC affliliate, WJCL-22, quoted sources who said unless there was an influx of finances, the move would happen.

ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT is waiting for responses to questions emailed to Savannah State athletics media relations officials Friday afternoon.

2016 was a year that Savannah State's football program, which competes in the Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA), seemed to finally turning the corner after being one the MEAC's annual doormats since beginning conference play.  For the first time as a MEAC member, the Tigers won three conference games during the season, finishing 3-6 overall, 3-4 in MEAC play.  One of their wins came over 2015 MEAC co-champions, Bethune-Cookman.

The men's and women's basketball program, along with the other SSU athletic programs, compete on the Division I level. The men's hoops team finished 10-6 in MEAC play this season, 13-16 overall. The women's basketball team was 8-8 in conference play, 12-19 overall.  Their baseball and softball teams have had dismal seasons as the women's softball team is 0-27 while the men's baseball team is 10-24 overall, 1-11 in the MEAC.  The women's tennis team lost all 21 matches this season.

According to the school's website, Steward, in his sixth year at SSU, oversees a department that has 16 sports and a $5.1 million budget.  The website also said the football program has brought in $5 million through guarantee football games, in which they've played FBS (formerly Division I) football schools such as Georgia Southern, Colorado State, Akron and Southern Mississippi over the past four years - teams they've been soundly beaten by.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Battle Between Atlanta University Center Neighbors Clark Atlanta and Morehouse To Be Pivotal SIAC East Mens Hoops Game Monday


An Atlanta rivalry tonight will also be an important men's basketball game in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Clark Atlanta (12-8, 6-3 SIAC) hosts Morehouse (11-6, 5-4 SIAC) in a battle of schools located just a few feet from each other.  That's ironic as only one game separates the two in the SIAC East Division race.

A Morehouse win could create a third-place tie between them and CAU, though Fort Valley State (9-11, 7-4 SIAC) would need to lose to Miles (4-13, 4-4 SIAC) tonight in Birmingham, Ala.   Otherwise the Atlanta schools would be a half-game behind FVSU. Benedict is in first half Claflin is second. One game separates them.

But that's only if Morehouse wins.  The Maroon Tigers are 3-0 in divisional play and have won four of their last five games.  The one loss was a huge hiccup against cellar-dweller Spring Hill (4-17, 3-7 SIAC) nine days ago.  They are led by guard Tyrius Walker who averages 15.5 points per game and is among the league leaders in assists, points and free-throw percentage.

While Morehouse is a high-scoring team, their 76.8 points per game (fourth in the SIAC) is a notch behind Clark Atlanta and their 76.9 points per game.

Tim Sanders (14.8 ppg) and Derek Harper (12.7 ppg) lead a CAU team that has five, nearly six, players averaging double-digit points a game.  The Panthers are also the better rebounding team so far this season.

A missed last second shot at first place Benedict (11-8, 8-2 SIAC) was all that kept CAU from extending their three-game winning streak to four on Saturday.

But the big deal Monday is this is a battle between neighboring schools that look to beat each other in the biggest basketball game for each school every year.  It's the first of two contests, with Morehouse hosting CAU, ironically, the day before Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Men's and Women's HBCU Basketball Preview - Southwestern Athletic Conference


It's the beginning of January and with the pigskin being stored away in football stadiums across HBCU campuses, it's time to turn to the basketball court as the 2016-17 men's and women's HBCU hoops season kicks into high gear.

With conference schedules now becoming the focus, we at ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT want to give you a good primer on what to look at across the country in men's and women's black college/university basketball.

We start today in the Southwestern Athletic Conference:


- Alabama A&M went into January 0-12, the only close loss being to the Ohio Valley Conference's Tennessee Tech.  The Bulldogs have struggled to score so far, with the SWAC's low of 57.9 points per game, and are struggling on defense, giving up 83 points per game.  Quinterian McConico has led them in scoring with 11.4 points per game and 7.3 points a game, while De'Edrick Petty has added ten points a contest.

- Alabama State has had problems scoring so far this season.  They have the SWAC's lowest field shooting and second-worst 3-point shooting percentage so far in 2016-17.  Junior Rodney Simeon has been a bright spot, averaging 11.5 points per game and ranking third in the SWAC in 3-pointers.  Tony Armstrong has also been steady, 11.2 points and seven rebounds a game.  The Hornets have won two of their last three, defeating Fort Valley State and Grambling.

- Alcorn State nearly pulled off an early season upset, losing by just a bucket to SWAC power Texas Southern on Jan. 2.  Though they started 3-9, ASU has played a bunch of big to medium sized schools to ready for the SWAC season.  They've scored 64 points a game and rank second in the SWAC in defensive scoring.  They also pound the offensive boards, ranking second in the conference in that area. Reginal Johnson has led them offensively with 15 points a game while averaging 7.5 rebounds a game.  He's also hitting 51 percent of his shots. Marquis Vance has done the hardwork inside, averaging eight rebounds a game.

- Arkansas-Pine Bluff started the year 2-12, beating lowly Mississippi Valley State and Eccelesia College in three overtimes.  But this is a team that isn't allowing teams to run up and down the court on them.  They are fourth in the SWAC in scoring defense (75.2 points per game) and second in defensive field goal percentage (45 percent).  So defense isn't a problem.  Scoring is.  UAPB averages just 60 points a game, second worst in the SWAC.  Ghiavanni Robinson has led them in scoring with 11.4 points a game, but he is the only person on their squad averaging double-digit points.

- Grambling picked things up earlier this season after getting wiped out at Virginia, with two overtime losses, one to Miami (Oh), and a win over Tougaloo. They are third in scoring in the SWAC with 67 points a game, but are giving up nearly 80 points a game.  Ervin Mitchell has been a bright spot, as he has scored 15.5 points and grabbed 5.5 boards a game.  Remond Brown has chipped in 13 points and three boards a game while freshman Averyl Ugba has been one of the SWAC's top rebounders this season with 9.2 rebounds a game.

- Jackson State has proven to be the stingiest SWAC team so far, giving up just over 67 points a game.  The Tigers went 6-8 before January with some good wins over Drake and Southern Miss. Edric Dennis has been their big player, leading the SWAC with 17 points per game so far this season and with 2.9 3-pointers per game. Janarius Middleton has also been a beast on the boards as he averages eight boards a game. This is a team seen as one of the best in the conference this season.

- Mississippi Valley State has had little success for far this season, going 0-14 heading into January.  They have played some biggies (Indiana, Michigan State, Iowa State, West Virginia) and have given up at least 100 points for times this season - including 105 to Arkansas-Pine Bluff - which is why they are the bottom in defensive scoring and scoring margin in the SWAC. Defense is a problem for the Delta Devils. Issac Williams (11.5 points per game) and Rashaan Surles (10.4 points per game) have been their scoring leaders.  But this is a team that is hitting just 59 percent of their free throws.

- Prairie View A&M has had a tough beginning of the season, going 3-12 heading into the New Year.  They did defeat Fresno State and played SWAC power Southern tough, losing only by two.  A steady team that is a good scoring team and a middle of the pack defensive team, PVAM has been led by Zachary Hamilton (14.8 points, 3.7 rebounds per game).  He's one of the league's better 3-point shooters and has hit 77 percent of his free throws.

- Southern is part of what's seen as the one of the top three SWAC teams this season, along with Jackson State and Texas Southern.  At 5-9 heading into January, the Jaguars gave UAB fits, losing by one in overtime, and played tough at Nebraska. With easily the top scoring offense in the SWAC so far at 73 points a game, the Jags are led by Shawn Prudhomme (17 points a game), Jared Sam (13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds per game) and Trelun Banks (11.7 points a game).

- Texas Southern is poised again to be the best team in the SWAC this season. They had a hot start, winning four of their first five before running into a buzzsaw of teams that included Arizona, Louisville, Cincinnati, Louisville, LSU, Baylor and TCU.  Forward Derrick Griffin, last season's Player of the Year, averaging 11 points and ten rebounds a game.  But junior guard Zach Lofton, in his first year at TSU after being at two schools the previous two years, is leading the team with 16 points a game. Guard Dulani Robinson rounds out their new big three with ten points a game so far.


- Alabama A&M's first problem to solve is scoring.  They average a SWAC worst 46 points per game and have a minus-27.4-point scoring margin so far this season.  They've also made the fewest 3-point shots so far.  Their offense so far has come mainly from Jameica Cobb and her 16.2 points per game.  No other Bulldog is averaging double-digit points so far this season, so scoring will be a huge issue to fix.  Cobb has been stalwart on the boards, as she is third with 7.2 rebounds per game.

- Alabama State will be shooting for a third SWAC title.  But they started with a brutal early schedule - North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Southern Miss, Troy, Ohio State, Mississippi State and LSU.  They went 1-10 going into the start of January and fell to a good Grambling squad by 15.  But this is expected to be a much better team than that.   They have not kept pace scoring with their opponents so far, but they have been tough on the boards.  The Hornets are led by Britney Wright and her 12.2 points per game and six rebounds a game. Daniel Ewert (10 points per game) has also been solid so far.  This team is expected to gel and challenge for another SWAC title, though they have started slow.

- Alcorn State has had a tough go at things so far this year, going 0-12 to start the season.  The problem starts on defense where they give up 78 points per game.  The fewest they've allowed is 57 points to a strong Texas Southern in a 4-point loss a few days ago.  They rank at the bottom of the SWAC in most defensive categories - scoring defense, defensive field goal percentage (31.6 percent), defensive 3-point percentage (38.8 percent), and rebounding margin (-11 per game).   Their offense isn't much better as they average just 51 points per game.  Tia Sanders is their only double-digit scorer, averaging 11 points per game.  Miracle Rushing is one of the SWAC's better rebounders so far, grabbing seven boards a game.

- Arkansas-Pine Bluff has had one of the tougher early schedules of anyone in the SWAC having played Xavier, Cincinnati, Ball State, Illinois and Oregon State.   They lost to Mississippi Valley State to start the SWAC campaign. UAPB ranks in the middle of most offensive and defensive categories in the SWAC, although their rebounding isn't very good. Senior Niya Head leads them with 11.7 points per game while Destiny Brewton has chipped in 9.7 points a game so far.  This is a team that will need to turn their game up a notch to challenge the better teams in the conference.

- Grambling started 3-9, but they've won their last two games including a win over one of the SWACs top teams, Alabama State.   They haven't been the high scoring team that they were last season, though they have been one of the top defensive teams so far this year.  But this team is led by guards Shakyla Hill (16.1 points, 6.7 rebounds per game) and Jazmin Boyd (12.5 points per game). The Tigers also have gotten steady play from Jazmine Torian (8.5 points, 5.8 rebounds per game). This is a solid team that won't sneak up on anybody this year.

- Jackson State has started strong - as expected - this season with two three-game winning streaks already. They have the SWAC's top scoring offense (72.6 points per game) and sport the second-best scoring defensive team (68.5 ppg).  They make it hard for teams to hit field goals (only allowing teams to hit 36.5 percent of their field goals per game) and they pound the boards.  Derica Wiggins (12.1 ppg), Chelsey Causey (9 ppg, 7 rebounds a game, 84 percent free throw shooter) and Kiera Adams (1.4 blocks ppg) make this one tough team to beat this year - just as everyone expected.

- Mississippi Valley State went 4-8 to start 2016-17 and has a SWAC win already over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  The Delta Devils have been a good scoring team though a mediocre defensive team so far.  But they have the SWAC's leading scorer in Christina Reed. Reed has averaged 17.2 points per game and leads the SWAC in steals with 3.6 a game. Ashley Beals is also back and has averaged 11.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.  Lauren Elliott (8.7 ppg, 2.3 assists, 2.1 steals) has also been a significant contributor for this promising team. This is a team that can make some noise in the SWAC, depending on their defense.

- Prairie View A&M has gotten some quality wins already this season, defeating Marshall, Sam Houston State and Bethune-Cookman, although they fell to SWAC power Southern to start January. Despite losing their two leading scorers from last season, the Aggies can score (second in the SWAC in scoring and field goal percentage so far), are a strong rebounding team and can hit 3-pointers.  Defense is probably their weak link, as they give up 75 points per game.  Alexis Parker (15.3 points a game) and Tori Carter (14.6 per game) are fourth and fifth among SWAC scorers so far this season, with Jeronia Allen (12.7 ppg) and Dominique Newman (10.4 ppg) not far behind.  Watch this team.

- Southern may have started 3-6, but their schedule has included the likes of Michigan State, UCLA, Ohio State and Texas A&M.  The Jaguars are still expected to be one of the better teams in the SWAC.  They start with their leading scorer, Briana Green.  Green averages 14.6 points per game and six boards a game and she hits 47 percent of her shots. Cortnei Purnell has averaged ten points and six rebounds a game so far, while Skylar O'Bear is one of the SWAC leaders in 3-pointers a game. This is a strong Jaguars team that will contend for a title.

- Texas Southern has lived up to their billing as one of the Big Three in SWAC women's hoops with Alabama State and Southern.  They won four of their first five, with the one loss in overtime.  They lost three in a row, but to big schools Rice, TCU and SMU before beating Florida International and Alcorn State.  They play the stingiest defense in the SWAC so far, giving up just 58.9 points a game, nearly ten points a game better than second place Jackson State.  Joyce Kennerson (13.7 points per game) and Artavia Ford (12 ppg) lead this team in scoring, with Ford leading the conference in field goal percentage.