Saturday, August 13, 2016

Five HBCU Football Storylines to Watch in 2016


There are a number of big stories all over HBCU football this year.  Here are five that jump out:

(Alcorn State athletics web site)
Alcorn State Head Coach Fred McNair - The Braves resurgence over the last several years has been led by Jay Hopson, but Hopson hopped over to Southern Mississippi and Division I football. No one at Alcorn seems too concerned as McNair, who has been the team's assistant head coach for the past four years, takes over.  McNair, a former star Braves quarterback and the brother of late Alcorn and Tennessee Titans star Steve "Air" McNair," was also quarterbacks coach and developed high flying Alcorn QBs Joe Gibbs Jr and Lenorris Footman.  They both return, so McNair has a leg up in keeping the Braves fortunes going.

(North Carolina A&T athletics web site)
North Carolina A&T Running Back Tarik Cohen - Cohen grabbed the nation's attention - finally - when he ran wild at the Celebration Bowl in December as ESPN's cameras were watching him run for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns is . Already North Carolina A&T's all-time leading rusher and within 641 yards of becoming the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's career rushing leader.  That's well within reach as he's rushed for at least 1,100 yards in his first three seasons, including more than 1,500 last year in leading the Aggies to a MEAC title.

Grambling Quarterback DeVante Kincaid - For someone who wasn't even at Grambling last year, a lot will be riding on his shoulders.  The Tigers, who ran through the SWAC season undefeated at 9-0, falling only to Alcorn State in the conference title game, return seven starters to an offense that averaged 41 points a game. But none of those seven starters include last year's quarterback Jonathan Williams.  Williams' backup Trevon Cherry was solid in limited back up time last season, but Kincaid, a transfer from Ole Miss and a former highly rated recruit, is going to get a chance to lead the Tigers offense this year as they stare right at a strong Prairie View A&M squad in the SWAC title race.

Bowie State Quarteback ???? - For a season in which the Bulldogs bulldozed their way through the 2015 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association season undefeated in regular season play (though they lost the CIAA title game and technically their first four wins wiped off the books) and advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs, it was a season of controversy.  Midway through the campaign, Bowie State star quarterback Matthew Goggans was ruled ineligible. Nyema Washington, a freshman last season, emerged ahead of senior Trevon Bennett.  But he isn't even listed as a key returnee in the Bowie State 2016 football prospectus.  In fact, the prospectus doesn't even mention any quarterback for a team hoping to head back to the CIAA title game.

Tuskegee Defense Vs. the Miles Offense - The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season will have some twists and turns as Albany State returns probably the most talented team and Morehouse could be a spoiler.  But the SIAC title game looks like it can again be a Battle of Alabama as 2015 champion Miles returns star quarterback David Whipple, a solid cruiser in Jamarcus Nance while the Tuskegee defense is back in full force, led by preseason SIAC Defensive Player of the Year in defensive end Julian Morgan and last season's fourth leading SIAC tackler in linebacker Osband Thompson.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Tennessee State Track and Field Star Clariwin Dameus Named OVC Women's Athlete of the Year

(photo from TSU athletics web site)
In what turned out to be no surprise to anyone, Tennessee State's Clairwin Dameus, who dominated Ohio Valley Conference women's track and field for the past three seasons, was named the OVC's Female Athlete of the Year.

Dameus has won three straight OVC Athlete of the Championship in running roughshod over the competition during the OVC Indoor Track and Field Championships.  This year she won the pentathlon, long jump and was part of the 4x400 meter relay team.  She was second in the 55 meters and the 55 meters hurdles.

She won the long jump and 400 meter hurdles during the outdoor season and was part of the winning 4x100 meter relay team.  She won silver medals in the 100 meters and with the 4x400 meter relay team.

Dameus became TSU's first two-time Division I USTFCCCA first-team All American after finishing sixth in the long jump and eighth in the pentathlon during the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships. She competes in the heptathlon during the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 8-11 and will attempt to qualify for the long jump, 100 meters hurdles and as a member of the 4x400 meters relay team during the NCAA East Preliminary Round May 26-28.

Dameus is the first TSU woman to win the honor.  Former TSU football star Carlos Rodgers won the OVC Athlete of the Year in 1994 while football star Charles Anthony won it in 2005.

Margaret Richards Takes Over Women's Head Basketball Coach Job at Alabama A&M


Alabama A&M's search for a new women's basketball coach didn't take very long.

Margaret Richards, who served the past year as an assistant coach with Clemson, has been named the head women's basketball coach at Alabama A&M.

Richards takes over for Semeka Randall, who last week decided not to return to the Lady Bulldogs program after a 5-25 season in which Alabama A&M finished next to last in the Southwestern Athletic Conference race.  She was 17-73 in three seasons.

"I would like to first thank God for this wonderful opportunity," Richards said.  "I would also like to thank President Dr. Andrew Hugine and Athletic Director Bryan Hicks for selecting me to lead their women's basketball program.  I'm truly looking forward to being a part of the Bulldog family and community.  This is such an amazing honor and opportunity and I plan to put in the work, time and energy to enhance the program on the court and in the classroom."

Before arriving in Clemson, Richards had been the head coach at St. Augustine's from 2008 to 2010, where she compiled a 33-24 record in two seasons.  The former Nebraska player went on to become an assistant at North Texas, Weber State and Western Kentucky before going to Clemson.

"We are excited to have Margaret Richards as our new head women's basketball coach," Hicks said.  "Margaret is a rising star in women's basketball.  Her leadership skills and her enthusiastic approach to the game of women's basketball will serve our program well.  She is recognized as an excellent, relentless and proven recruiter and we are glad to have her leading our women's basketball program."

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Benedict Women Seeded Second and Kentucky State Tabbed Fifth in First Round of the NCAA Women's Division II Basketball Tournament


Two SIAC womens basketball teams, conference champions Benedict and runner-up Kentucky State, are headed to the smaller version of the Big Dance.

Both teams were among eight chosen to play in the women's Division II tournament's NCAA South region, which begins play Friday.

After roaring through the season 27-2 and convincingly winning the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, Benedict will face seventh-seeded Florida Tech (20-9) in the NCAA South Region first round on Friday.  The winner takes on the victor between third seed Delta State and six seed Nova Southeastern.

Benedict heads into the tournament ranked No. 12 nationally.  But they needed an early second quarter spurt last weekend to put away Kentucky State (24-4), a team that had won 17 games in a row and Benedict one of their two losses this season (the other was to Claflin).

Even though the led the SIAC in scoring, a smothering defense has been their calling card all season as the Lady Tigers led the SIAC in scoring defense.

"We worked hard all year long," Benedict head coach James Rice said after the game, according to the school's sports website.  "Defensively, that's where we hang out hats.  Our defense got us back in the game.  I thought how we took control of the game was defensively."

They face a tough opponent in Florida Tech (20-9), a team making their first appearance in the NCAA tourney since 2012.  The lost in the Sunshine State Conference finals to champion Tampa.  But they've played in a conference where four of the eight teams are in the NCAA tourney field.

Kentucky State won't have much time to put the end of their winning streak behind them. They are now seeded fifth and face four seed Florida Southern in the first round in Jackson, Tenneseee.

The Thorobredettes have been nearly just as good as Benedict on offense, as they are a deep team of scorers where anyone has a chance to get hot on a given evening. They are led by a balanced trio in Jamesha Mosley (11.8 points per game), Shala Horton (10.8 ppg) and Logan Powell (9.7 ppg).

"It's by committee and what we dont want to happen if for a team to be able to focus on certain players to beat us," KSU head coach Serena King-Coleman told The News Journal on Feb. 16. "I'm confident that we have several players that can score double digit points on any given night and pull it through for us.  It just isn't always pretty."

They take on an equally tough Florida Southern squad that was 24-5 this season.  They were one of the top scoring teams in the Sunshine State Conference, averaging nearly 72 points a game.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Here's Why Eddie Robinson and Other HBCU Football Coaches Are Just as Good or Better, Mr. Tom Jones


I've heard from several people this week who have asked me what I thought about what a sports columnist and talk show host in Tampa Bay said a few days ago about famed Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson.

According to reports,, Tom Jones, who is with the Tampa Bay Times and 620 WDAE basically said Robinson couldn't carry Alabama head football coach Nick Saban's whistle.

Jones' point really is that Robinson coached against, well, the likes of Southern (the only team he could name that Grambling played, along with not being able to figure out what conference they play in).  Robinson didn't have big games against big teams so he can't be compared to a Bear Bryant at Alabama or, ahem, Joe Paterno at Penn State.

Understandably, all my HBCU sports backer friends are upset.  Not only is this a clumsily reached conclusion, this guy is trying to judge something he knows very little about.

First, he's wrong.  Eddie Robinson is one of the top five college football coaches of all time.  I'd say top three, without any kind of order.  Whether Nick Saban is in there, I won't say that yet.  He's had a tremendous run at Alabama though, I admit -- and I'm a Tennessee graduate, so that's hard for me to say.

But the Sabans, Paternos and Bryants of the world had big money programs, unending amounts of money to use on coaches, assistants, weight programs, facilities, etc.  Robinson had NONE of that. He had nothing to work with.  His players were super raw, unlike high school players who train to become college athletes as freakin middle schoolers.  Robinson was teaching linebackers to tackle, kickers to kick, quarterbacks to throw and coaches to coach.

Most of the talented black players weren't going to play for Bear Bryant in Robinson's day.  The kind of schools where Bryant and other white guys coached wouldn't let them in the door.  So they went to not only Grambling, but they played at Mississippi Valley State, Jackson State, Tennessee State, Florida A&M, Tuskegee and a slew of other historically black colleges and universities.
Big John Merritt
Wonder who Robinson's teams were playing?  Try Tennessee State, where the legendary Big John Merritt won more than 200 games coaching players and teams that mauled competition regularly.  Or maybe Florida A&M where Jake Gaither's teams did much the same. In conference (the Southwestern Athletic Conference or SWAC, for your info, Mr. Jones) was W.C. Gordon's Jackson State teams. By the way, all three of those coaches are in the College Football Hall of Fame.  And if you look at those teams, you'll find some NFL superstars and Hall of Famers from those schools.

Jake Gaither
Okay, so Mr. Jones may not know those teams.  I will allow him to be ill-informed and only know a very white-washed version of college football history -- for a minute.

Know why Robinson's teams never had what Jones calls a big game against a big team?  The Bear Bryants of the world REFUSED to play them.  Why?  Because they knew teams at Jackson State, Florida A&M, Tennessee State, Grambling or many other HBCUs would hand them their heads on a plate of gumbo on a cold Saturday afternoon.

And dont think for one minute it was some wild, throw some negroes on the field and throw them a football and let them run around.  Nope.  Offenses run by Robinson and Merritt were intricate and unstoppable.  Their defenses, big, fast, smart and disciplined.   The white college football establishment knew good and well that the black athlete would wreck their system.  So to make sure that system wasn't wrecked, they did what any caring group of people would do -- they made them part of the system, which basically wrecked historically black college football as the bright lights, television and money lured the black athlete away from schools still struggling to keep their playing fields playable.

HBCU football isn't what it use to be.  That raiding of black players is part of the reason.  But another big part of it today is that historically black colleges and universities continually under-utilize, underfund and underestimate historically black college athletics.  HBCU administrators are pinching pennies these days, many struggling to keep their entire schools open.   But many are run by people who just completely miss the boat on what a solid athletic program can do to ENHANCE the historically black college.  It's a shame.

Anyway, Mr. Jones eventually saw that he was a bit off-base when a caller, a veteran football coach who is African American and well-schooled in the HBCU football tradition, told him a few things. And his co-host, who thought Jones was bananas in saying Eddie Robinson couldn't be called one of the best college football coaches ever, kind of shamed him too.

"I'm just going to give up," he said at the end of the conversation.

Good idea.  Your white male privilege in judging black college sports you admit to knowing very little about -- and then proudly coming to a flawed conclusion about one of the greatest coaches ever -- just oozed out, dude.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

SWAC's Alcorn State and MEAC's North Carolina A&T Battle in the First Celebration Bowl


The first-ever Celebration Bowl in Atlanta today is the final HBCU football game of the season, but probably one of the most important.

The two best teams of the two FCS HBCU football conferences, Alcorn State from the Southwestern Athletic Conference and North Carolina A&T from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, are battling to see who should be on top of the HBCU football world.

The game will be telecast live on ABC at noon eastern time from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Alcorn State, at 9-3 and fresh off of winning their second straight SWAC title, is looking to show that a mid-season hiccup where they lost two of three games is less indicative of a team that has the SWAC's top rated offense and defense and avenged one of those losses two weeks ago easily against a strong Grambling squad in the SWAC Championship game.

The Braves have won four straight since those regular season losses to Grambling (which they avenged) and Prairie View have outscored those four opponents 172-54 (21 of those 54 points came against Grambling in a title game that was decided early on).

"This is a team that has had some adversity," said ASU head coach Jay Hopson to the Sun  We had injuries, lost five or six starters, and battled back. I think we're a team - in basketball terms - we're getting stronger toward tournament time. I'm seeing a football team that really has gotten stronger as the season wore on."

Read more here:

Quarterback John Gibbs Jr., who has passed for nearly 1,000 yards and rushed for nearly 400 more, has been injured.  Lenorris Footman has ably stepped in, passing for 962 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 961 and 11 touchdowns. Footman threw for 202 yards and three TDs and rushed for 101 yards and another touchdown in the SWAC championship game.

"The reality is we've got two outstanding football players at that position," Hopson told The Vicksburg Press.  "It just so happens one is 100 percent completely healthy and the other is in that 90 percent range.

Behind whoever starts at quarterback, something Alcorn State head coach Jay Hopson has been coy about, stands Ragsdale Darry who has rushed for 1,141 yards and eight touchdowns.

On defense, the Braves are led by Darien Anderson's 69 tackles and five sacks, Damon Watkins who had 65 stops and five sacks and two others who had six sacks each in Michael Brooks and Stacey Garner.

That all means a tough challenge for a North Carolina A&T team that hasn't played in nearly a month since a loss to rival North Carolina Central in a game that resulted in a three-way tie for the MEAC crown between A&T, Central and Bethune Cookman.  Had A&T won, they would have won the title outright.  But tiebreakers meant the Aggies earned the Celebration Bowl bid.

Now the Aggies are looking to show the world that not only do they belong in Atlanta today, they are the team to beat.

At 9-2, North Carolina A&T marched through the MEAC schedule, winning seven straight games (eight overall with a win over Elon), mainly on the calling-card strength of one of the nations's nastiest defenses.

The Aggies led the MEAC in defense, but most notably were easily the stingiest squad against the run, something that will be important against a great running offense in Alcorn State.  North Carolina A&T only allowed 84 yards rushing a game, 930 yards for the ENTIRE season.

"We must stop the run," A&T head coach Rod Broadway said to The Charlotte Observer. "We can't have a lot of turnovers and we've got to tackle well.  The month off gave the players time to heal so I'm anxious to see how we play."

Read more here:

On offense, the leader is running back Tarik Cohen, the two-time defending MEAC Offensive Player of the Year. The junior who became the school's all-time leading rusher earlier this season, rushed for 1,248 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 113 yards a game.

Kickoff for the Celebration Bowl is at noon in Atlanta.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Grambling, Alcorn State Battle for SWAC Title and Berth in the Celebration Bowl

(photo by The Vicksburg Post)
Saturday's SWAC Championship football game is a game that both Grambling and Alcorn State have been looking forward to, but for very different reasons.

Both teams are looking to claim the SWAC title, which for Alcorn State, would be their second in a row.  The winner will also play in the inaugural Celebration Bowl, which pits the SWAC champion versus the MEAC champion on Dec. 19.

But the Braves have had problems with a Grambling football team that has been on a steady climb since the dreadful days of 2013 when the team lost most football games and even boycotted a game because of the horrible conditions of their football facilities.

They've been the most consistent team in the SWAC for the past two years, the only main bump in losing a close battle last year to Southern that would have put them in last year's title game.

This season, the Tigers are 9-2, have won nine games in a row, and most importantly, they've defeated Alcorn State two years in a row.

They have SWAC Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Johnathan Williams who has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns this season for the SWAC's second best offense.  The 34 points they scored last week was the fewest they've scored this season, besides the 14 points they had against Pac-10 team California in their opening game loss.

But they are the second best offense in the SWAC.  The top offensive team is Alcorn State.

The Braves averaged nearly 45 points and 487 yards of offense a game this season and are led by Ragsdale Darry, a rusher who only 44 yards from the 1,000 yard mark this season and has run for seven touchdowns.  But they have questions at quarterback as Footman Lenorr has had to step in for injured star quarterback John Gibbs Jr., a dual passing and rushing threat.  Footman has been solid, but head coach Jay Hopson has been coy about who will start today.

"All that stuff will kind of be game time," Alcorn head coach Jay Hopson told the Monroe News Star.  "We will see how that all plays out."

Alcorn State also has the SWAC's stingiest defense, giving up only 270 yards and 21 points a game this year.

Overall defense isn't Grambling's strong suit, but they do have the SWAC's best defense against the rush.

That all came into play earlier this season when Grambling needed a blocked extra point on the last play of the game to hold off Alcorn State.

Besides winning the SWAC title for the second year in the row, Alcorn State wants to finally defeat their nemesis while Grambling is looking for that elusive SWAC championship.

"It has been a stellar year for your program," said Grambling's Brandon Fobbs, the SWAC Coach of the Year, to The Advocate.  "I felt very confident in our blueprint for success.  I'm very pleased with with what we've been able to accomplish, but we still have a few more steps to go.  We will definitely have our hands full with Alcorn."