Monday, August 14, 2017


Photo by Philip McCollum
Late October will be a busy and festive one in the historically black colleges and university world as a slew of big HBCU homecoming games are scheduled Oct. 21 and 28.

But you won’t have to wait until then to attend an HBCU homecoming football game – the first one this season will be held Sept. 23 when Lincoln (Mo.) hosts conference foe Truman State.   The final homecoming game of the season takes place in Montgomery, Ala., when Alabama State hosts Cheyney (Pa.) in the 94th annual Turkey Day Classic on Nov. 23.

Here is the full schedule of HBCU homecoming football games for 2017:


LINCOLN (Mo.) vs. Truman State

ALABAMA A&M vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
WEST VIRGINIA STATE vs. Glenville State


LANE vs. Langston
NORTH CAROLINA A&T vs. Delaware State
SOUTHERN vs. Alabama A&M
TEXAS COLLEGE vs. Texas Wesleyan

ALBANY STATE vs. Morehouse
ALCORN STATE vs. Prairie View A&M
FLORIDA A&M vs. North Carolina A&T
MILES vs. Kentucky State
MORGAN STATE vs. Savannah State
TEXAS SOUTHERN vs. Alabama State
VIRGINIA STATE vs. Bowie State

CHEYNEY (Pa.) vs. West Chester University of Pa
CLARK ATLANTA vs. Albany State
FAYETTEVILLE STATE vs. Saint Augustine’s
HAMPTON vs. Florida A&M
HOWARD vs. Morgan State
LANGSTON vs. Arizona Christian
LINCOLN (Pa) vs. Virginia State
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE vs. Virginia University of Lynchburg
MOREHOUSE vs. Benedict

BOWIE STATE vs. Lincoln
GRAMBLING vs. Texas Southern
LIVINGSTONE vs. Fayetteville State
NORFOLK STATE vs. Savannah State
SAINT AUGUSTINE’S vs. Johnson C. Smith
SHAW vs. Fayetteville State
TUSKEGEE vs. Central State
VIRGINIA UNION vs. Elizabeth City State


JACKSON STATE vs. Alabama State

ALABAMA STATE vs. Cheyney (Pa)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A .500 2016 Season Serves As Motivation for Lane in 2017


Last year’s 5-5 season at Lane didn’t sit well with head coach Derrick Burroughs, especially since he believes his Dragons were much better than that.

“We left too much on the table last year,” Burroughs said during last month’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Media Day.  “I’m very disappointed in a 5-5 season.  I don’t think we were a 5-5 team last year.”

The Dragons were a team that lost two games by a total of six points and lost another to Central State after allowing a 100-yard kickoff return and having an unusually unproductive game on the ground.   

A lot of their problems came in the passing game where Lane was the SIAC’s second-worst pass offense in 2016.  In eight games last season, dual threat quarterback Marcus Reynolds recessed from a promising 2015 as he threw for just 674 yards (just 84 yards a game).

Reynolds said he has been working on his mechanics, as well as sharpening the timing between him and his receivers.

“I think we have the guy at the quarterback position to do the job,” Burroughs said. “I think he’s one of the most athletic quarterbacks we have in this conference.  We just need to settle him down a little more, but I think we have the people to do it.”

The other half of the “Marcus and Marcus Show,” running back Marcus Holiday, didn’t have too many issues last season. He led the SIAC in rushing with 1126 yards rushing and rushing average with 126 yards a game.  Holiday is a first team, All-SIAC preseason pick, but he is looking for a better season this year.

“I worked on my acceleration,” Holiday said of his offseason preparations.  “I think that’s my biggest problem. My first step is quick, but when it comes to like open field, that’s what I’ve been working on. My open field speed, blocking, catching the ball out of the backfield. Last year, I didn’t have a lot of receiving yards, so I’ve been working on it.”

Stopping the pass was the Achilles heel for a Lane defense that wasn’t that bad last season. Seven starters from a defense that ranked in the top half of the SIAC in scoring defense and was second in pass defense returns.   But they were in the bottom half of the conference in stopping the run last season, plus their two top tacklers from 2016 have to be replaced.

“Our intention was to go out and find some defensive lineman,” Burroughs said of the off-season. “Hopefully, we’ve added a little more depth to help our run defense.”

Burroughs and his team of Dragons see 2017 as a redemption season, bettering a 2016 that they thought should have been much better.

“Still have a very sour taste in our mouths because we went 5-5 last year,” he said. “We left a lot on the table so hopefully we can go back and get it this year.”

Friday, August 4, 2017

Despite Lots of Losses, Rick Comegys is Focused On Winning at Mississippi Valley State


No one said it would be easy.

It’s year four of Rick Comegys' tenure as head football coach at Mississippi Valley State and the Delta Devils so far have won a total of four games, as in a record of 4-29.

But this season alone, Comegys is hoping for more wins than that, he said during the Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day in July.

“I’m sure that the athletic director wants us to have more wins than we’ve had, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I’m sure alumni as well.  But I’m looking at maybe around .500, something of that nature, to kind of balance that thing out.”

Those five or six wins would be the most that MVSU has won since a 5-6 campaign in 2012.  The program has won five or six games only four times since 2000, including back-to-back, six-win seasons in 2005 and 2006.  Before that, the last back-to-back (to-back) winning seasons came in 1983, 1984 and 1985. That’s back when the legendary Willie Totten was throwing a lot of touchdown passes, those first two seasons to a guy named Jerry Rice.

These Delta Devils look nothing like those teams.  They had the SWAC’s worst offense last season, averaging an anemic 245 yards and 14 points a game. The MVSU roster that appeared in the 2017 SWAC media guide didn’t include last year’s quarterback, Austin Bray, or last year’s leading receiver, Joshua Banks, or rusher in Slade Jarman.

“I believe offensively we’ve got some weapons coming in that can make a difference in what we do,” Comegys said.  “But I think our strength will be defense right now because we’re mature.  But yet and still, we’ve got some quarterbacks coming in that I think will make a big difference.” 

The Delta Devils defense had issues last season also, giving up a SWAC-worst 504 points and 45 points a game.  They lost their leading tackler, but return defensive back Mark Pegues who had 63 tackles last season, and preseason All-SWAC defensive back Everett Nicholas, who picked off four passes last season.  Farrian Toney also returns to the secondary where he had three interceptions, but will also play wide receiver for the Delta Devils. He caught seven passes for 151 yards against Grambling in 2016.

There’s a lot of work to do in Itta Bena to get to at least five wins this season as Comegys hopes.  And the schedule doesn’t help. Besides a high-scoring, but four-win team in Southern Illinois, MVSU faces three post-season FCS teams in their first four games – North Dakota State, Grambling and Charleston Southern.

“But that’s just the way the schedule is,” he said. “The only thing I can say right now is that we’ve got to get our kids prepared to play football and if we can get our kids prepared correctly, we’ll be alright up in there.”

A lot of MVSU’s issues are out of Comegys, or any coach’s, control. A big one -- resources, or lack thereof.  A USAToday study found that of the 347 schools participating in NCAA FBS or FCS football, Mississippi Valley State ranks dead last in the amount of money that a school spends on athletics - $4.29 million.  North Dakota State meanwhile has a $22 million athletic budget and just opened a new state-of-the-art locker room facility.

But Comegys said he is just focusing on getting his team ready to compete.

“[We’re] not where I want to be right at this moment,” Comegys said.  “But I believe by the time we start the season, we’re going to be in a position where we can play with those guys and make a game out of it. If we don’t win, we don’t.  But I’m looking to win those football games.  I don’t care if its Grambling, North Dakota State.  I’m looking to win.” 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Southern Focuses on “The Process” As They Look For a SWAC Title in 2017

(photo by Arthur Williams/Southern athletics web site)

For most teams, an 8-3 season with only one loss to an FCS team would be cause for celebration.
Not if you are the Southern Jaguars.

That one loss came in the Bayou Classic to their heated rival, Grambling, in a game that would determine the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s West Division champion and who would play in the SWAC championship game the next weekend.

The loss instead meant the end of an eight-game winning streak and the 2016 season.

But it’s 2017 and the Jaguars have been picked to again finish second in the West to Grambling.  However, that’s not what Southern is thinking about this season.  

“We’ve got an opportunity not only to be a good football team,” said head coach Dawson Odums during the SWAC Media Day in July. “We’ve got an opportunity to put ourselves in position to win a SWAC championship.”

They will do so without last year’s SWAC leading rusher, Lenard Tillery, who finished his career as the SWAC career-rushing leader. Tillery is a big reason why the Jaguars led the SWAC in scoring and were second in total offense.  But now he’s gone.

Senior Herb Edwards will lead a group that will try to take over for Tillery.

“When young men depart your program, it’s a great opportunity for other men to step up,” Odums said. “If we can get the same production, whether it’s between two guys or three guys, I think we’ll be happy with that position.  [Tillery is] and outstanding football player. We’ll never replace him, but him departing creates a window of opportunity for someone new to step up and now they can showcase what kind of talent they have for our program.”

The offense won’t be bare at all though.  Quarterback Austin Howard returns, as does star wide receiver Willie Quinn. Howard threw 29 touchdowns and was second in SWAC passing last season, while the diminutive Quinn (he is 5’ 5” and weighs a hefty 150 pounds) is also back. He was third in receiving last season with 63 receptions for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns.

On defense, the Jaguars’ defense, particularly their rushing defense, was in the bottom half of the SWAC last season.  The spotty defense came to a head in that Grambling game last season as the Jaguars gave up 452 yards of offense – 262 of it on the ground – and six touchdowns in that 52-30 loss.  Grambling also had a kickoff return for a TD.

But four members of last year’s defensive squad, led by defensive lineman Aaron Tiller (60 tackles and nine sacks in 2016), have been named to the preseason All-SWAC team.  Defensive back Danny 
Johnson led the SWAC with seven interceptions, one for a TD, last season, while Kentavious Preston also had 60 tackles and two sacks for Southern.

Odums said his team is focused on making another run at a SWAC title, but not looking ahead to a rematch in November with the team that denied them a shot at it last year.

“It’s not a game we really talk about as a team,” he said of the 2017 Bayou Classic.  “When we sit down with our team the first time and we talk about the mission for our football team, of course you want to beat your in-state rivals. But at the end of the day, we talk about how do we get to that point. And in order to get to that point, we call it ‘chop wood and carry water.’  We’ve got to fall in love with the process.  And the process right now is getting our minds set on coming to camp, having a healthy camp, getting through camp and focusing [season opening, Sept. 3 opponent] on South Carolina State.  We don’t really worry about [the Grambling] game because we’re going to have to play that game. It’s enough to worry about it once you get to it.  

“At the end of the day,” Odums added, “we try to focus on us and if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Florida A&M Looks to Continue Football Rise in 2017


Thing have been tough the past few years for those part of one of the nation’s top HBCU football fan bases, Florida A&M.

Since 2012, the Rattlers program, which has won 567 games over its history, including the first FCS national championship in 1978, has won only 15 games, the worst five-year period in FAMU football history. 

But buoyed by a second-half of 2016 in which they won four of seven games, the Rattlers go into the 2017 season feeling like they are a team on the rise and ready to look more like the FAMU teams of yesteryear than the ones of yesterday.

 “We’re very close,” said defensive end Calvin Darville during the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Media Day last week.  “This upcoming season, you’re going to see a different team, a different swag. We’ve been working hard all off season and we’re ready to showcase that.”

Others are also beginning to see the Rattlers rise. MEAC coaches and sports information directors picked Florida A&M to finish sixth in the 2017 conference race, which is where they finished last season.  They were picked to finish eighth at the beginning of last season.

The Rattlers have six offensive players who were named to the 2017 preseason All-MEAC team, including quarterback Ryan Stanley who headed a passing offense that was fourth in the conference last season.  His top target, wide receiver Brandon Norwood, returns as do three preseason All-MEAC offensive line picks.  While Stanley and running back Devin Bowers combined for 749 yards rushing last season, head coach Alex Wood will need to shore up a running game that was one of the worst in the MEAC last season.

“We know we can run zone read and we can throw play-action pass off it.  That’s where we’re going to hang our hat on,” Wood said.  “You have to be able to run the football, obviously, to be successful offensively.”

The Rattlers ranked in the bottom half of the MEAC in total defense and defensive scoring in 2016, with real problems stopping the run.  But FAMU’s secondary was the league’s best, allowing just under 159 passing yards a game last season.  They return preseason All-MEAC picks in defensive backs Orlando McKinley and Terry Jefferson.  As a freshman in 2016, Jefferson had 46 tackles, while McKinley was one of the MEAC’s best in passes defended.  Both had four interceptions last season.

“The thing that has to come to fruition for us is playing a lot better defense,” Wood said. “To win a championship, you’ve got to play really good defense and that’s something that we’re going to emphasize.”

They will be under the gun early.  A rugged, first seven games this season includes a strong Texas Southern team from the SWAC, FBS SEC team Arkansas, preseason nationally-ranked Tennessee State, MEAC champ North Carolina Central and NCAA playoff team North Carolina A&T.

“We’ve got a veteran team coming back, which is exciting, and obviously something every coach cherishes when you’ve got a lot of veterans coming back,” Wood said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to line up.” 

Monday, July 31, 2017

North Carolina Central Picked to Win MEAC; Leonard and Philyaw Named Preseason Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year


Despite having to retool a bit on offense, North Carolina Central has been picked to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference race in 2017, according to MEAC coaches and sports information directors.

The Eagles, who didn’t lose an FCS game last season until their one-point loss to Grambling in the Celebration Bowl, had five players chosen to the MEAC’s first team preseason All-Conference defensive squad and have their 2016 leading rusher, preseason All-MEAC 2nd team pick, Ramone Simpson, returning.  He will also get help from 3rd team All-MEAC pick Dorrel McClain, their leading rusher from 2015 who missed last season with an injury.  NCCU will have to find a replacement for last year’s offensive leader in dual threat quarterback Malcolm Bell. 

Picked second, with five first place votes, is their rival North Carolina A&T. The Aggies lost star rusher Tarik Cohen to the NFL, but quarterback Lamar Raynard who threw for nearly 1,500 yards and 14 TDs in a run-heavy offense, has been named the MEAC’s first team, preseason All-Conference quarterback.  He will throw to fellow All-MEAC first teamer in wide receiver Elijah Bell, and will have three All-Conference Aggies on the offensive line to block for him. Marquell Cartwright will step in for Cohen.

The MEAC’s leading tackler last season and this season’s preseason MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Darius Leonard, returns to lead a defensive-minded South Carolina State squad that’s picked to finish third in the MEAC.  Six SCSU defenders were named to the preseason All-MEAC team, indicative of a team that was led the conference in total defense last season.

Second-team preseason All-MEAC quarterback Larry Brihm Jr. is back to lead Bethune Cookman, a team picked fourth after a surging second-half of 2016 erased an ugly start.  Brihm, the third-ranked passer in the MEAC last year, will throw to Jawil Davis, a third-team preseason All-MEAC pick.

Anthony Philyaw, the second-leading rusher in the MEAC last season, returns for Howard (picked to finish ninth) and has been chosen as the MEAC’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  Philyaw rushed for 1,230 yards and nine touchdowns for Howard, a team that has the conference’s second-best rushing offense but had severe problems on defense in 2016.

Here is the full order of finish predictions and the entire preseason All-MEAC first, second and third teams:

1)     North Carolina Central
2)     North Carolina A&T
3)     South Carolina State
4)     Bethune Cookman
5)     Hampton
6)     Florida A&M
7)     Norfolk State
8)     Morgan State
9)     Howard
10)  Savannah State
11)  Delaware State

All MEAC First Team Offense


QB Lamar Raynard Jr. North Carolina A&T State High Point, N.C.
RB Anthony Philyaw Sr. Howard Los Angeles, Calif.
RB* Yahkee Johnson Sr. Hampton Richmond, Va.
RB* Ramone Simpson Jr. N.C. Central Wilmington, N.C.
WR Elijah Bell So. North Carolina A&T State Wheeling, W. Va.
WR* Brandon Norwood Sr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
WR* Frank Brown Sr. Bethune-Cookman Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
TE Leroy Hill Jr. North Carolina A&T State Smithfield, N.C.
C Darriel Mack Sr. North Carolina A&T State Clio, S.C
OL Brandon Parker Sr. North Carolina A&T State Kannapolis, N.C.
OL Nick Leverett So. N.C. Central Concord, N.C.
OL Robbie Stephenson Sr. S.C. State Fairburn, Ga.
OL Justin Evans Sr. S.C. State Florence, S.C.
PK Uriel Hernandez Jr. Bethune-Cookman Homestead, Fla.

First Team Defense

DL* Kevin Thompson R-Sr. Bethune-Cookman Baltimore, Md.
DL* Chris Lee Sr. Norfolk State Woodbridge, Va.
DL Ja’Quan Smith Gr. N.C. Central Miramar, Fla.
DL Antonio Brown Sr. N.C. Central Jacksonville, Fla.
LB Darius Leonard R-Sr. S.C. State Lake View, S.C.
LB Dayshawn Taylor R-Sr. S.C. State Lincolnton, Ga.
LB Reggie Hunter Sr. N.C. Central Henderson, N.C.
DB Alden McClellon Jr. N.C. Central Lake Butler, Fla.
DB* Jason Baxter Gr. S.C. State Manning, S.C.
DB* Diquan Richardson Sr. Bethune-Cookman Alvin, S.C.
DB Zerius Lockhart Sr. North Carolina A&T State Auburn, Ala.
P Nathaniel Tilque Sr. N.C. Central Charlotte, N.C.
RS Khris Gardin Sr. North Carolina A&T State Morganton, N.C.

Second Team Offense

QB Larry Brihm, Jr. Sr. Bethune-Cookman Delray Beach, Fla.
RB Herb Walker, Jr. Sr. Morgan State Cleveland, Ohio
RB Mike Waters So. Delaware State Philadelphia, Pa.
WR Kyle Anthony So. Howard Miami, Fla.
WR Mason Rutherford Sr. Delaware State San Bernardino, Calif.
TE Demetrius Ferebee Sr. Norfolk State Roanoke, Va.
C Victor Ishmael, Jr. Sr. S.C. State Miami, Fla.
OL Osman Aguilera Sr. Florida A&M Miami, Fla.
OL Loubens Polinice So. Florida A&M Palm Coast, Fla.
OL Joshua Fala So. Delaware State Manteca, Calif.
OL Cade Pedro So. Delaware State Kailua, Hawai’i
PK Tyler Scandrett Sr. S.C. State Barnesville, Ga.

Second Team Defense

DL Steven Smith Sr. Hampton Norfolk, Va.
DL* Jai Franklin Sr. Morgan State Clinton, Md.
DL* Greg Newell Sr. S.C. State McDonough, Ga.
DL Julian McKnight Jr. North Carolina A&T State Conyers, Ga.
LB Trenton Bridges Jr. Bethune-Cookman DeLand, Fla.
LB* Malik Harris Sr. Delaware State Washington, D.C.
LB* Marcus Albert Jr. North Carolina A&T State College Park, Ga.
DB Brendan Cole Sr. Hampton Hampton, Va.
DB Orlando McKinley Jr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
DB Terry Jefferson So. Florida A&M Miami, Fla.
DB Devondre Powell Sr. S.C. State Miami, Fla.
P Uriel Hernandez Jr. Bethune-Cookman Homestead, Fla.
RS Frank Brown Sr. Bethune-Cookman Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

 Third Team Defense

QB Ryan Stanley So. Florida A&M Pembroke Pines, Fla.
RB Dorrel McClain Jr. N.C. Central Cary, N.C.
RB Brycen Alleyne Jr. Delaware State Wilmington, Del.
WR Jalen Wilkes Jr. N.C. Central Greenville, S.C.
WR Jawill Davis Sr. Bethune-Cookman Miami, Fla.
TE Desmond Noird Sr. Florida A&M Atlanta, Ga.
C Phillip Norman Sr. Bethune-Cookman Sebastian, Fla.
OL Obinna Nwanko So. Florida A&M Miramar, Fla.
PK Wizdom Nzidee Sr. Delaware State Stone Mountain, Ga.

Third Team Defense

DL* Stefen Banks Jr. Savannah State Columbus, Ohio
DL* Elijah Price Sr. Florida A&M Jacksonville, Fla.
DL* Kenneth Melton Sr. North Carolina A&T State Elizabeth City, N.C.
DL Tyberius Cravens Sr. S.C. State Austell, Ga.
LB Kyle Archie Sr. Norfolk State Virginia Beach, Va.
LB Mulik Simmons Sr. Savannah State Savannah, Ga.
LB Brian Cavicante So. Delaware State Portsmouth, Va.
DB Carl Garnes Jr. Morgan State Columbus, N.J.
DB Keyjuan Selby Jr. Delaware State Bear, Del.
DB Darius Johnson Jr. Morgan State Baltimore, Md.
DB Davanta Reynolds Jr. N.C. Central Tucker, Ga.
P Fidel Romo-Martinez So. Delaware State Banning, Calif.

RS William King Jr. Morgan State Baltimore, Md

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

PIcked Third in the OVC, Experienced TSU Tigers Looking for a Big Season

TSU WR Patrick Smith
Tennessee State has the same typical run every season – they do really well with their primarily HBCU non-conference schedule, and then run into problems when they begin playing Ohio Valley Conference foes.

That’s understandable, as Jacksonville State, which is the OVC’s preseason pick to win the conference title this season, has been picked to win the OVC each of the previous three seasons and has gone on to finish on top each time.

Then Eastern Illinois, which is picked to finish fourth this season, won three of the five OVC titles before then.

So what does all that mean this year to the conference’s only HBCU, Tennessee State?
The Tigers, 7-4 (4-3 OVC) last season, are picked to finish third in the OVC this season after finishing fourth in the conference last season.  The Tigers finished 4-3 in the OVC play, with six of their games decided by a total of just 21 points.

But they are an experienced and talented team that sees themselves as a team that finished just a game away from last season's FCS playoffs and can make a better run at a national title this season.

“Our biggest challenge is to take them one game at a time and stay focused,” said TSU Head Coach Rod Reed said during the OVC Media Day. “We play classic games… and sometimes we get hyped up for those games and then every other game is just another game.  I think we’ve got to treat all of them as the same.  Every game is a classic game. Every game you’ve got to play like its fourth and goal.”

The Tigers seven starters returning on offense, including the OVC’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in wide receiver Patrick Smith. Smith was the conference’s second leading receiver last year and tied for tops in scoring with 13 TDs.  His wide receiver mate will be last season’s OVC Newcomer of the Year Steven Newbold, who averaged 19.1 yards a reception in catching 41 passes for 784 yards and six touchdowns.

The question is who will be throwing the ball to Smith and Newbold this season.  Ronald Butler, a senior who had 28 touchdowns and led the second-best passing offense in the OVC last year, has graduated and presumed replacement, O’Shay Ackerman-Carter, decided to transfer.  In will step, Treon Harris, an intriguing transfer from FBS Florida.  Harris started during parts of two seasons at Florida, throwing for nearly 2,700 yards and 18 touchdowns.  He also ran for 570 yards and three TDs.

“With a player like Treon, because he is so versatile, he poses a big threat,” said TSU linebacker Chris Collins. “With us dealing with him all spring, you don’t know what you’re going to get from him because he can throw and he can run. It’s hard to game plan against quarterbacks like that because he goes against all the rules.  So, he’s going to be a big threat for us.”

Leading rusher Erick Evans is also gone, as well as two All-OVC offensive linemen. The Tigers have two FBS transfers, Chidi Okeke (LSU) and Christian Morris (Ole Miss) to replace them.

On defense, where the Big Blue usually shine, they return nine starters, including 15 of their top 19 tacklers from last season. That includes preseason All-OVC defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko.  Ogundeko was an All-Conference pick last season, even as he missed three games due to injuries.  He had 48 tackles, 11 for losses, and 5.5 sacks.  Collins led TSU with 87 tackles and safety Laquarius Cook had 66 even though injuries kept him out of the last two games of the 2016 season. 

That early season schedule this year won’t be like previous years.  They start off at FBS Georgia State which is opening their new stadium, the former Turner Field/Olympic Stadium in Atlanta.  They go to Memphis to play rival Jackson State and then to Tampa for a new classic game against Florida A&M.  Then it’s right into a tough OVC schedule.  They go to UT-Martin, who TSU beat in a wild game last season, but UTM is picked to finish second ahead of TSU.  Then their first home game is against a tough Eastern Illinois squad.  The Tigers take on Jacksonville State in the final game of the season.

"We don’t set boundaries, we don’t set limitations," Collin said. "We are shooting for the stars. We want to reach the national championship and win that as well." 

“Our kids are really excited,” added Reed. “I’m fired up about this season. I think they are going to take the challenge.  They are going to play with a chip on their shoulders.”

Monday, July 24, 2017

Picked Last in SIAC East, Morehouse Looks to Rebound in 2017 With New Offense and Solid Defense

TE Ryan Edwards, Head Coach Rich Freeman, QB Kivon Taylor
Morehouse College head football coach Rich Freeman will be the first to admit it – last year, his team didn’t play very well.

The Maroon Tigers had an experienced quarterback and some good defensive pieces coming back for the 2016 season and were picked to finish high in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s East Division race. 

But bad special teams play, a defensive secondary that was carved up by teams like Elizabeth City State, Tuskegee and Clark Atlanta, and a lackluster offense led to a 3-7 record and a last place finish.  
“We own it,” Freeman said during the recent SIAC Media Day, where Morehouse was picked to finish last in the 2017 East Division race.  “All of those things attributed us to being picked a fifth-place preseason football team.”

But look past what happened in 2016, Freeman said. Heading into the new season, the 2017 Maroon Tigers are a very different looking, talented team.

“It definitely motivates me because I don’t see fifth-place talent when I look around our locker room,” he said. “And I definitely don’t see fifth-place coaching when I look around and see the experience on our staff.”

Shoring up the defensive secondary has been a priority this year, and Freeman said a solid recruiting class, and a year of experience, should help that. Otherwise, led by Preseason All-SIAC players in linebacker David Smith (first team) and defensive lineman Voris Bryant and Antonio Johnson (both second team), the Maroon Tigers already look to again be strong against the tun. While Morehouse was next to last in pass defense in 2016 (giving up a league-high 21 touchdowns), they had the SIAC’s second-best run defense and was third in total defense.

The biggest move at Morehouse this off-season was the hiring of offensive coordinator Harry Williams.  Williams, who replaces longtime offensive coordinator Leon Murray, was the coordinator for a Langston University offense that led their conference in scoring with 51 touchdowns and averaged nearly 41 points a game.

Williams brings a spread offense that has already had the football all over the field during spring drills at Morehouse.  For a program that didn’t even have a full-time offensive line coach, a more free-wheeling offense, instead of one heavy on reads and intricate blocking schemes, is a better fit for the program and for the players, said Freeman and his players.

“The offense had become stagnant,” said dual-threat quarterback Kivon Taylor of 2016.  “With Coach Williams, he’s brought in a bunch of new looks and he kind of re-invented the spread look and put some power into it.  The conference hasn’t seen this look. “[Coach Freeman] went and found a coach who suits our playing strengths. Now we have an offense designed around our strengths. It’s exciting.”

With those needs being addressed, Freeman is chomping at the bit get this season started.

“We don’t have everything we need, but we have what we need to be a lot better than fifth place and I’m looking forward to that happening,” he said. 

SIAC East Fave Albany State Stout On Defense But Questions On Offense For New Coach


Albany State is again picked to be one of the best football teams in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 

But what is different is leadership.  Out this season is former head coach Dan Land who resigned in March.  In is former Charleston Southern offensive coordinator Gabe Giardina, who takes over a team that is picked to win the SIAC East Division after falling one game short of making it to the SIAC championship game in 2016.

Giardina, in his first head coaching job, has yet to be on the field with his new team as he was hired after spring practice wrapped up.

“I think we’re really excited to get the pads on and get our family going,” Giardina said during SIAC Media Day.  “We’re getting hired here at the end of April, so I think the players are just as excited as I am to get out there on the field and see who is coaching them and what they are actually like.  It’s exciting to be picked first, but at the same time, we know that’s just on a piece of paper. None of that means that much, other than people respect our program.

“But at the same time know we’ve got to go out there and play the games,” he said. “The real deal is being in that championship game at the end of the season.”
Giardina inherits a team that went 5-4 (3-1 SIAC) last season, mainly on the strength of the “Dirty Blue” defense.  The unit was the SIAC’s toughest against the run and second-best overall to Tuskegee by less than a yard.  They were the league’s best in only allowing teams 18 points per game.

Seven starters return on defense, including defensive back Nick Scott, who led the team with 42 tackles and two interceptions. Also back will be Emmanuel Brown (41 tackles} and Zavondrick Shingleton (40.5 tackles).

The Golden Rams return six starters on offense, but not quarterback Caleb Edmonds, the SIAC’s top passer and leader in total offense who has graduated.  He was also their leading rusher.  Sophomore Charles Stafford is the only quarterback returning with any experience, completing 4-of-6 passes last year. The team’s four leading receivers are back, but the question remains as to who will be throwing the ball to them.

Also graduating was Jarvis Small, ASU’s star running back who battled injuries most of last season. The team’s second-leading rusher, McKinley Hambersham, returns after rushing for 337 yards and two TDs last season.

Giardina’s forte is offense, having led Charleston Southern’s multiple offense which averaged 33 points and 410 yards of offense per game last season. His offenses helped CSU to 36 wins over a four-year period. Charleston Southern won the Big South Conference championship in 2015 and 2016 and was ranked 14th in the final NCAA FCS Coaches’ Poll last season.  

While Giardina said his Albany State team will also feature a multiple offense, right now he is just focused on getting his team on the field so coaches and players can finally get to know each other. He admits that having to “hurry up and wait” for fall camp to start is a little frustrating as they look to get going.

“We’re just trying to establish our culture, our core values and environment and what we want to be important to our players,” Giardina said. “Obviously we had a little late start, being hired after spring ball. So, fall camp is going to be important in establishing our identity and who we want to be and who we want to be going forward.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

Grambling, Alcorn State Picked to Win SWAC West and East Divisions


With 14 players and the Southwestern Athletic Conference's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Devante Kincaide, defending SWAC champs Grambling has been picked to win the conference title again this year.

In a poll of SWAC head coaches and sports information directors, the Tigers, who haven't lost a SWAC game since 2014 were picked to win the West Division while the team they defeated in last year's SWAC title game, Alcorn State was chosen to win the East Division.  Grambling led all SWAC teams in votes with 85 while Alcorn State was second with 80.

The West Division predictions mirrored the exact finish in last year's SWAC West standings.  In the East, Alcorn is followed by Alabama State, Jackson State and Alabama A&M in the predictions.
Last season's standings in the had Alabama A&M, Alabama State and Jackson State following behind Alcorn State.

Here is the SWAC predicted order of finish:

East Division 

Alcorn State (80 votes)
Alabama State (66)
Jackson State (59)
Alabama A&M (45)
Mississippi Valley State (20)

West Division 

Grambling State (85 votes)
Southern (68)
Prairie View A&M (59)
Texas Southern (37)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (21)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Notes and Observations About Each SWAC Football Team Heading Into Media Day


Friday’s SWAC Football Media Day kicks off the 2017 football year for the ten SWAC members with a number of questions for each team.  We take a look at some of the things that may be on their minds heading into the new season:

Alabama A&M will spend their first three weeks of the season along I-65, playing UAB, Vanderbilt and South Alabama. They will ride their sturdy running back Jordan Bentley.  He rushed for 851 yards and nine TDs during his freshman season last year and should be better. But they lose his running mate, quarterback DeAngelo Ballard, who helped the Bulldogs become the top rushing team in the SWAC last season. The defense will be a highlight as AAMU returns top tacklers Kenneth Davis and Tere Callaway.

Alabama State is in offensive rebuilding mode.  Who replaces star running back Khalid Thomas? Who replaces quarterback Quinterris Toppings, who was also the team’s second-leading rusher? On defense, Kourtney Berry is gone, but Darron Johnson and Jarkeith Ruffin return while and Robert Pritchard had a big spring game in his first spring with the Hornets.

Alcorn State has a good question to have – which one of your experienced quarterbacks will be the starter this year, Lenorris Footman (1,586 yards passing and 13 touchdowns) or Noah Johnson (1,567, 21 TDs)?  They also get back top rusher DeLance Turner (Johnson was also one of their better runners). They also return the bulk of their defense, though not their two top tacklers.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff honestly has no place to go but up after finishing 1-10 last year. They had the worst scoring offense in the SWAC (13 points per game) and was last in total defense, giving up 490 yards a game.  Brandon Duncan returns as the starting quarterback, so they will have experience there.  UAPB is also looking for Keshawn Williams to show some explosion at running back, which is needed as UAPB averaged a paltry 77 yards a game on the ground.  The UAPB offensive line promises to be a stronger and more experienced unit this season.

Grambling looks good. Period. With a few changes, this team looks a lot like the one that was one of the nation’s best and should have beaten Pac-12 Arizona on the road last year. Quarterback Devante Kincaide, the SWAC’s leading paser, is back, thought he lost his top receiver in Chad Williams. Their leading rusher, Martez Carter, also returns.  The defense lost a lot of senior leadership, but brings back a lot of experience.  This team hasn’t lost a SWAC game since November 2014.

Jackson State was a team that could stop people but couldn’t move the ball, which is why they went 3-8 last season. But the spring game showed that the offense is ready to step up. Led by returning quarterback Brent Lyles, they had 753 yards and ten touchdowns.  Khalil Johnson returns on defense, along with Dario Robinson and Shawn Bishop.

Mississippi Valley State will have a rough start of the season – North Dakota State, FCS teams Southern Illinois, Grambling, and Charleston Southern.  That isn’t tough – that’s brutal for a team that was last in offense and near the bottom in the SWAC in defense last season. Austin Bray does bring experience back at quarterback, with Joshua Banks being a solid receiver. But they have to fix a rush defense that gave up 200 yards a game and a run offense that AVERAGED an embarrassing 25 yards a game.

Prairie View A&M was a team that just couldn’t get over the hump that was Grambling and Southern last season.  Take away being completely overmatched in losses to the SEC’s Texas A&M and the Big 12’s Rice and you have a team that was on the SWAC verge. Either Trey Green or Jalen Morton should start at quarterback again as the two split duties last season. Darius Floyd returns at receiver after a solid freshman year.

Southern’s good news is that QB Austin Howard is back.  He was the SWAC’s second-leading passer last year for an offense that was second in scoring and total offense. So is star receiver Willie Quinn. But the third portion of the trio, running back Lenard Tillery, is gone.  So who replaces him is a big question since Tillery rushed for 1,743 and the most prolific returning runner, Herbert Edwards, ran for 165.  Defensively, nine of the team’s 11 leading tackles from last year return, including top tackler, Aaron Tiller.

Texas Southern went 4-7 last year, but lost three games by four or fewer points. The Tigers will have a new quarterback in Jay Christopher who takes over as a senior. The Tigers’ defense was okay, but the offense will have to step it up passing and rushing as they ranked the bottom half of the conference in both areas.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

CAU's Johnathon McCrary, Tuskegee's Osband Thompson Named SIAC Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year; Benedict Leads With Ten All-SIAC Picks


Clark Atlanta University's high-flying quarterback Johnathon McCrary and Tuskegee tackling machine Osband Thompson have been named the 2017 SIAC Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced Tuesday.

In the vote of SIAC head coaches and sports information directors, McCrary was chosen after a season in which he threw for nearly 2,000 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns last season for the Panthers.  The Vanderbilt transfer averaged 211.4 yards passing a game including SIAC single-game highs of 456 yards passing and five touchdowns.

Thompson has been a perennial star in each of his four seasons at Tuskegee.  Last season, he had 137 tackles, forced three fumbles and intercepted a pass for one of the nation's top teams in Tuskegee.  He had 67 solo tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.   Thompson is the reigning SIAC Defensive Player of the Year and Division II Conference Commissioners Association Super Region 2 Defensive Player of the Year.

The Preseason All-SIAC First and Second Teams were also announced Tuesday with Benedict, picked to finish third in the East Division, leading the way with ten players chosen:

First Team

Johnathan McCrary, QB, Clark Atlanta, Sr.
Ryan Edwards, TE, Morehouse, Sr.
Okechi Ntiasagwe, WR, Benedict, Jr.
Dre Martin, WR, Clark Atlanta, Soph.
Marcus Holliday, RB, Lane, Jr.
Ger'Kerry Jackson, RB, Miles, Jr.
Tedrick Colfield, OL, Albany State, Sr.
Leeward Brown, OL, Tuskegee, Sr.
Marcus Campbell Jr., OL, Kentucky State, Jr.
Justin Brown, OL, Benedict, Jr.
Howard Bush, OL, Lane, Sr.
Charles Williams, DL, Benedict, Sr.
Rodriguez Jones, DL, Kentucky State, Sr.
Aaryn Guy, DL, Benedict, Jr.
Kaelan Bonds, DL, Miles, Sr.
David Smith, LB, Morehouse, Sr.
Osband Thompson, LB, Tuskegee, Sr.
Kendrick Frazier, LB, Benedict, Sr.
Edward Kirkland, DB, Benedict, Sr.
Jonah McCutcheon, DB, Tuskegee, Sr.
Travonte Brown, DB, Benedict, Soph.
Kenneth Morgan, DB, Clark Atlanta, Soph.
Nick Christiansen, K, Miles, Sr.
Juan Serna, P, Fort Valley State, Sr.
Ricci Nuckles, KR, Morehouse, Soph.
Deandre Jackson, PR, Clark Atlanta, Sr.

Second Team

Marcus Reynolds, QB, Lane, Jr.
Darius Nelson, TE, Benedict, Jr.
Jules St. Ge, WR, Kentucky State, Soph.
Javarrius Cheatham, WR, Tuskegee, Jr.
Jamari Clark, RB, Fort Valley State, Jr.
Lavelle Cloyd, RB, Kentucky State, Sr.
Darius Thomas, OL, Central State, Soph.
Craig Hinson, OL, Central State, Soph.
Christopher Ruffin, OL, Benedict, Jr.
Darius Preyer, OL, Clark Atlanta, Jr.
Lowell Richardson, OL, Tuskegee, Jr.
Antonio Johnson, DL, Morehouse, Jr.
Voris Bryant, DL, Morehouse, Sr.
Devonte West, DL, Fort Valley State, Sr.
Mekiye Kingston, DL, Clark Atlanta, Jr.
Zavondric Shingleton, LB, Albany State, Sr.
Anthony Hardy, LB, Miles, Sr.
Keonte Reynolds, LB, Kentucky State, Jr.
Nick Scott, DB, Albany State, Sr.
Ryan Luckett, DB, Kentucky State, Sr.
Robert Cummings, DB, Benedict, Soph.
Kentron James, DB, Fort Valley State, Jr.
Carlos Saldana, K, Clark Atlanta, Soph.
Nick Christiansen, P, Miles, Sr.
Deondre Jackson, KR, Clark Atlanta, Sr.
Ladarrell Pettway, PR, Tuskegee, Soph.

Tuskegee and Albany State Picked To Win SIAC West and East Divisions


In no surprise to anyone in the universe, Tuskegee was picked to finish first in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's West Division, in a poll of conference head coaches and sports information directors released Tuesday.

The Golden Tigers picked up 11 of 15 first place votes after finishing last season in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs.  They had the SIAC's top offense and defense last season, and return the conference's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Osband Thompson, and experience at quarterback in new starter Jamarcus Ezell who played in all 12 games as Kevin Lacey's understudy.

Albany State has a new head coach in Gabe Giardina, but returns many of the cogs from what was one of the SIAC's stingiest defensive units. The Golden Rams had the top overall record in the SIAC East last season, but fell to Fort Valley State in a game that would have put them into the SIAC championship game.

Here is the full predicted order of finish for the SIAC East and West Divisions:

East Division

1) Albany State - 65 votes, six first place votes
2) Fort Valley State - 55, (4)
3) Benedict - 52, (4)
4) Clark Atlanta - 42 (2)
5) Morehouse - 26

West Division

1) Tuskegee - 75, (11)
2) Miles - 60, (3)
3) Kentucky State - 48, (2)
4) Lane - 37
5) Central State - 21

Monday, July 10, 2017

Questions and Observations Heading Into Tomorrow's SIAC Football Media Day


Heading into tomorrow’s Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference 2017 football Media Day, there are a few early questions and observations that would be worth keeping in mind for each SIAC team.  They are:

Albany State was stingy on defense but a little shaky on offense last season.  To fix that, the Rams brought in new head coach Gabe Giardina. Giardina, in his first head coaching job, is the former offensive coordinator at Charleston Southern where in two of the past three seasons his offenses averaged 400 yards a game and twice made the NCAA FCS playoffs.

Benedict has good news in that George Myers Jr. is back.  He ran for nearly 1,100 yards, with two games of more than 220 yards rushing and two more with over 165. But passing – throwing it and stopping it – are major issues of concern that head coach Mike White will have to address heading into this season.  They were at the bottom of the SIAC in both categories last season.

Central State has to do better scoring and stopping teams from scoring.  They were last in both categories last season. They ran the ball superbly last year, but had the SIAC’s worst red-zone offense, couldn’t kick the ball well and ranked at the bottom of the league in turnover margin. And they lost their leading rusher to graduation.  Transfer Trent Mays will push last year’s starting quarterback Lavon Meeks, who had a decent season.

Clark Atlanta is poised to take the next step towards the upper echelon of SIAC teams as quarterback Johnathon McCrary proved last year that he is one of the best signal-callers in the conference and turned the CAU offense into the league’s second best last season.  The defense will need to improve and lost their leading tackler to graduation. 

Fort Valley State won’t have much time this season to figure it out. Their first five games include West Georgia, Valdosta State, and the SWAC’s Southern – all on the road. That stretch also includes a match-up with the league’s highest scoring offense last year, Miles.  The defending SIAC champs also must replace quarterback Otis Brown.  Jamari Clark returns after a solid freshman season at running back

Kentucky State’s 2016 midseason in which they won four of five games – including shocking nationally-ranked Tuskegee – was one of the biggest headlines from the SIAC last season.  The SIAC’s Coach of the Year, John L. Smith, returns the SIAC’s Freshman of the Year in quarterback Jules St. Ge, who is a dual threat, though more of a runner.

Lane has the Marcus Show returning to Jackson this season in junior running back Marcus Holliday and his classmate, quarterback Marcus Reynolds.  Holliday led the SIAC in rushing last season while Reynolds threw seven TDs during an injury-filled 2016.  Though a good secondary lost some players to graduation, the Dragon has some solid players returning to a pretty good defensive unit.

Miles lost their high-powered quarterback-running back duo in David Whipple and Jamarcus Nance to graduation. They have to figure out who will step into those spots. The returning quarterback with the most experience is Tommy Neeley who only completed 15 passes last season. Ger’Kerry Jackson showed flashes last year at running back. The Tigers won’t have long to figure things out. They start out against SWAC power Alcorn State and then go to West Georgia. They do have the SIAC’s best kicker in Nick Christiansen.

Morehouse’s biggest change this year is on the sidelines – Henry Williams takes over for the departed Leon Murray as offensive coordinator and brings a wide-open, spread the field offense that could be a solid match for athletic returning quarterback Kivon Taylor.  David Smith, the SIAC’s third-leading tackler as a sophomore, is back to lead a solid defense.

Tuskegee had the SIAC’s best offense and best defense, was ranked among the nation’s top teams and now they have a new athletic director in venerable head football coach Willie Slater. But the Golden Tigers have lost their offensive leader in quarterback Kevin Lacey. Jamarcus Ezell was a solid understudy last season as a freshman, throwing five TDs and playing in all 12 games.  Returning to a stalwart defense is Osband Thompson, a senior linebacker who has been a tackling machine his entire career.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Events DC Ends Nations Football Classic


The AT&T Nations Football Classic in Washington, D.C. is now history.

Events DC, the convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, announced on June 30 that the annual football match-up of Howard University and for the first three years, Morehouse College, and, for the last three years, Hampton University, will cease to exist.

"The annual Classic in Washington, D.C. was more than just a game -- with ancillary activities celebrating the passion and tradition of historically black colleges and universities," said Gregory O'Dell, Events DC president and CEO.  "As our organization continues to evolve, we feel it is the right time to shift our efforts onto other exciting programming as well as the implementation of our short-term redevelopment project for the historic RFK Stadium-Armory campus."

The game has been played since 2011 at the aging RFK Stadium, the former home of the NFL's Washington football club.  The stadium is set to be demolished and replaced with a sports, market and recreation complex along with a memorial to President Robert F. Kennedy, who the stadium was named after.  That project is estimated to be completed within the next ten years.

Howard, an FCS team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Morehouse of the Division II and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, renewed their rivalry in the Classic's first game in 2011.  The two schools had not played each other since 1997, but had played each other semi-regularly since 1955.  Howard defeated Morehouse each of the three years the two played in the D.C. classic.

The game featured a week of activities leading up to the game, including a debate between the Morehouse and Howard debate teams, presentations on research by the schools' professors and other activities.

Howard rival Hampton replaced Morehouse in the Classic's final three years.  Howard won the first game while Hampton took the last two contests.

"Though we are sad to discontinue one of our primary produced events, we are now able to pivot our investments from one larger event to several smaller ones as we continue to activate the RFK Stadium-Armory campus and beyond," said Erik A. Moses, Events DC senior vice president and managing director of sports, entertainment and special events.   "We would like to thank all the students, alumni, faculty and sponsors whose tremendous support since the Classic's unveiling made this event a staple for the regional HBCU community over the past six years -- especially Howard University, a true partner each year since the Classic's unveiling."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NBPA To Hold Top 50 Basketball Camp in July for SIAC and SWAC Players


The 50 of the best ballers from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference will participate in a full-range basketball camp run by some of the NBA's present and former stars.

The National Basketball Players Association has announced an agreement with the SIAC and the SWAC to hold a basketball camp July 20-23 at Morehouse College's Forbes Arena in Atlanta for 25 players from each of the conferences made up primarily of historically black colleges and universities.

The NBPA is the union that represents the NBA's players.

The camp is modeled after the Top 100 Camp which plays host to the nation's top high school basketball players, but also provides mentoring for education, leadership, life skills, character and skills development. So think the same thing, but for the top SIAC and SWAC players.

"Our members are very excited to be able to share their professional knowledge and life experiences with today's student-athlete," said NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts.  "This relationship with the HBCUs demonstrates the NBPA's capacity to play a role in enlightening the young people of today as they seek to shape their future, on and off the court."

The camp also gives current and former NBA players looking towards a coaching career an opportunity to connect with administrators and officials at HBCUs where many often get their first shot at coaching careers.

"Historically black colleges and universities often provide crucial "first chance" opportunities to professional athletes seeking coaching and administrator opportunities in intercollegiate athletics," said SIAC Commissioner Greg Moore.  "This initiative seeks to cultivate, institutionalize and ultimately broaden critically important talent pipelines, while also imparting invaluable skill instruction and mentoring to our student-athletes."

"The Southwestern Athletic Conference is honored to work with the leadership and members of the NBPA, as well as the SIAC, to bring this incredible opportunity to our stakeholders," added SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp.  "The most fulfilling piece to this is an opportunity for these future leaders to develop their academic and character compass as they embark on their future on and off the court."

Football Media Days Soon To Kick Off New HBCU Season


HBCU football fans won't have to wait much longer for the unofficial start to a new football season.

The first HBCU conference football Media Day is only a few weeks away as the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference holds their media day on July 11.  This year comes a new venue and city - instead of Montgomery, Alabama where it had been held, the event moves this year to the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

"The College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience was built to serve as the home for an celebrate all things college football - players, coaches, teams, conferences and fans," said Dennis Adamovich, CEO of the Hall.  "We are the perfect venue for important events like this and we are thrilled to welcome the SIAC here to host their Football Media Day."

"We are very pleased to have the SIAC Football Media Day hosted by the College Football Hall of Fame," added SIAC Commissioner Greg Moore.  "In light of the rich history which spans more than 100 years, I cannot think of a more appropriate place to hold this year's event."

Coaches from the SIAC's football playing institutions will speak about their teams and will each be accompanied by two players.  The preseason All-SIAC team will be announced, as will the teams predicted order of finish.

A few days later, the Southwestern Athletic Conference holds their annual Media Day on July 14 in Birmingham, Ala.  Following the same format of the SIAC, it will also be the first opportunity media types will have to question a gathering of the league's coaches, administrators and players about SWAC officials' new plan to do away with the SWAC football championship game after this season.

SWAC Media Day will stream live on the SWAC Digital Network.  It will be available via audio and video online at

Six days later, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association holds their football Media Day on July 20 in Roanoke, Va.  It kicks off a special season for the CIAA as the conference is celebrating the 125th year of black college football. CIAA institutions Livingstone College and Biddle Memorial Institute, which is now Johnson C. Smith University, played the first black college football game on December 27, 1892.

On July 28, in Norfolk, Va., the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference will hold their annual Media Day. One of the biggest off-season news items to come up for the MEAC is the decision by Savannah State University to leave the MEAC and FCS competition to drop back down to Division II in two years.

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."