The FCS playoffs haven’t started yet, but you can write this in stone: There is zero chance that an HBCU will win the championship, or even a game as there will be no HBCU teams in the field. The NCAA revealed its playoff tree on Sunday and no teams from the MEAC or SWAC (nor the OVC’s Tennessee State) were selected.
Bethune-Cookman was overlooked in the playoff field despite going 9-2 and sharing the MEAC football crown. It was one of three teams that took a share of the the conference title, along with North Carolina A&T, who will participate in the inaugural Celebration Bowl, and North Carolina Central. Prairie View, also 9-2, had its hopes for an at-large bid dashed on Sunday as well.
This is nothing new for the SWAC, as it has opted out of the playoffs since the late 1990s. For the MEAC, however, this is a bitter taste of what looks like its new reality.
How did we get here?
The MEAC gave up it’s auto-bid for the FCS playoffs earlier this year when it opted to send its champion to the Celebration Bowl to play against the SWAC winner.
The MEAC’s agreement to the Celebration Bowl came with a price: In addition to giving up its automatic qualifier status, it also gave up its seat on the FCS committee, according to the Greensboro News and Record.
Add in the fact that the conference hasn’t won a playoff game since 1999, and that its best team wouldn’t be an option, it’s fair to infer that this isn’t as much of a surprise to those in the know as it is to the common fan.
So basically, the MEAC gave up its voice to campaign for one of its non-Celebration Bowl bound teams in exchange for the $1 million dollar payout from ESPN.
The fact of the matter is, Bethune-Cookman’s beef isn’t with the NCAA, though it is probably better than some the teams that got in. If its leadership voted for the Celebration Bowl, then that’s where it should be looking. And if it voted against it, all angry fingers should be pointing to the conference office in Norfolk.
Many will blame the NCAA, and say that its biased against HBCUs, which is debatable. But at the end of the day, if you give up your plate at the the table, can you complain about not being fed?
Where do we go from here?
The MEAC, like the SWAC, chose to go the more financially lucrative route. Given the expense of competing in Division I, and how much of a struggle it is for most HBCUs to do so, it’s hard to blame the MEAC for taking the money ESPN put on the table.
Competing in Division I, especially in football, calls for resources that most HBCUs really don’t have. Which is what the SWAC, and ultimately the MEAC, confirmed when they opted out of the playoffs.
Fans may not like it, but that is the reality of the situation. Since FAMU won the 1978 Division I-AA title, the SWAC has never won a playoff game and the MEAC has won just six. And none in the last 15 years. Perhaps the leadership simply felt the money grab was more beneficial than wishing on a star for another playoff win.
It’s understandable that fans are upset, but they will have to realize that for 2015 and beyond, the Celebration Bowl is the HBCU Super Bowl at the FCS level. Every conference game is a playoff game. Either win your conference or stay home. Now that the deal is signed, sealed and delivered, everyone has no choice but to make the best of it, because at the end of the day, the Calvary ain’t coming.
November 23, 2015 at 3:08 pm
It should be noted that not all of the MEAC schools were in favor of this bowl. I wish we knew the details of the million dollar payoff split between the conference, member schools and participating school.
November 23, 2015 at 3:10 pm
November 23, 2015 at 5:53 pm
Even if they split the money equally between every school still more than they would make in the playoffs. Until WE are committed to give our atheltics 500 plus out our pockets. It cost money to be D1!
November 23, 2015 at 6:24 pm
BCU's schedule is weak. The Wildcats struggled against a bad Division II team and did not play any teams that made the playoffs since Grambling is going to the Celebration Bowl. BCU needs to start playing quality OOC FCS teams instead of CIAA, GSC, and SIAC schools. The bottom of the MEAC was crazy bad too. There were four 1-win teams. That is insane and I am sure it hurt the Wildcats.
November 23, 2015 at 6:27 pm
I know FAMU and Hampton were against it. I understand MEAC teams are probably not going to win it all, but I still have major problems with the Celebration Bowl. I do not think the bowl money is worth it…especially since the payout split has been kept secret.
November 23, 2015 at 8:12 pm
To say not all schools in the MEAC didn't know all of the in and outs of the contract of the celebration bowl, before signing seems like they (the one (s) who sign) were only thinking and caring about the money and not the well being of the conference and member schools programs. On the other hand, isn't funding the schools athletic programs the well being? So crying Wolf after the fact seems pointless.
November 24, 2015 at 1:50 am
This was an excellent read; I hated that the MEAC gave up its auto bid to play this game…remember the Heritage Bowl in Atlanta back in the day? This concept has already been tried with minimal success. I'm not optimistic about this as of right now.
November 24, 2015 at 6:06 am
Do any of you know the Numbers of the Celebration Bowl well here they are MEAC participating School This Year NCAT $500,000 the 10 remaining teams $25,000 each the Conference takes $250,000 and even if the get half that its more than they would get in any playoff situation. BCU has Hosted more FCS playoff games than any other HBCU and has lost a great deal of money doing it. I think more Conferences in the FCS should get together and create more Bowl games and leave the Playoffs for the people who cant count
November 24, 2015 at 2:26 pm
If we're doing bowls, there should be more bowls to field winning HBCU programs and conferences should give option to playoffs to the league champions. If anything, let's create a HBCU playoff system that will lead to Celebration Bowl. The top 4 schools, or the runner ups, would play to determine the finale of playing for Black College Championship. Also, back to bowls, this is a perfect opportunity for the resurgence of old HBCU bowl games (Yam, Gold, Pelican, Tangerine, etc.) in which will nor only prosper our schools' campuses for venue, but will honor the success of winning schools in conferences and exposure. If all other ideas don't work, I suggest a week where it's Conference vs. Conference based on fan votes and band rivalry.
November 24, 2015 at 2:53 pm
Where did you get those numbers?
November 24, 2015 at 9:29 pm
Treat it like the BCS then. Have another Bowl and invite #2 MEAC VS #2 SWAC…
The fans from those schools will travel and participate in that bowl just like other schools in the BCS.
November 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm
In years past, BCU's schedule was stronger, yet they were still omitted. The struggle against the Division ll team came the week of traumatic shooting deaths of students, which took its toll on all BCU students. (There was talk of canceling the game.)
Let's face it………The playoffs are about TV ratings and money. Conferences getting 4 and 5 teams in a 24 team playoff system isn't a fair system. If you are ranked in the top 24, 25, 26, your chances of appearing in the playoffs should be a given.
If HBCU'S schools are being called out for trying to make money, then call out the NCAA for the same thing. Other conferences might decide on ways to make money for their teams if they feel they aren't being treated fairly.
Note: BCU'S RECORD the past 6 years and ranking
2015 9-2 #22 0-1 vs FBS
2014 9-2 #24 1-1 vs FBS
2013 10-3 #12 1-1 vs FBS – playoff lost to Coastal Carolina
2012 9-3 #22 0-1 vs FBS – playoff lost to Coastal Carolina
2011 8-3 0-1 vs FBS
2010 10-2 playoff lost New Hampshire