By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter

Currently, America is watching March Madness (the NCAA Tournament), but there has been a 40-year problem that will not go away. By the end of the second round, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been on the outside looking in.

Some Black schools have to qualify twice, even worse some Black schools not only have to win their conference and also their year-end conference tournament, just to compete in the tournament. Talk about climbing the mountain top; this is it.

Maybe it is time to entertain a 32-team HBCU playoff. This year’s Cinderella teams, Saint Peter’s Peacocks in the East and the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West may have answered some of these questions by just playing better on the court, but something has to change. Year after year HBCUs are not getting a fair chance because of their seeding in the NCAA tournament.

A few years ago, the NCAA instructed the Black conferences to improve their schedule for power ratings. The MEAC-Mid East Athletic Conference, SWAC-Southwest Athletic Conference, CIAA-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, and SIAC-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference all conformed to these rules.

Then, the NCAA instructed Black institutions to win their Conference regular-season championship, all conformed, and last instructed HBCUs to win the Conference Tournament championship, which they did. Only then these schools are invited to The Big Dance.

What they did not tell these Black institutions is that they would have to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. These same requirements were not placed on Division One, predominately white schools. Many teams from D-1 conferences can participate in the NCAA Tournament without winning their conference or being in 1st place after the season ends.

These schools have complied with the governing bodies’ wishes. HBCUs have improved their schedules, HBCUs have improved their power ratings over the years, and should be given the chance to show the country their skills.

The Grambling Tigers played my alma mater Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. The Alcorn State Braves and Prairie View A&M Panthers have come to California twice to play Bay Area Division-one schools. The Panthers played the University of San Francisco and St. Mary’s-Gaels early this season.

 HBCU schools still have to play in. The question should be asked WHY?

This year the Texas Southern Tigers won their conference and tournament but still had to play Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders in the play-in game to earn a spot. Who are the Islanders? This is getting old. The Tigers won again and the NCAA should take note.

On the lady’s side, Jackson State went 18-0 in conference play this year and had to play the LSU Tigers. The Tigerettes gave the Lady Tigers all they wanted in an 83-77 LSU victory.

The Lady Hampton Pirate basketball team in 2013 ran into this brick wall against #1 Duke Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium the home of Duke in the first round. The Pirates were 28-6 overall, 16-0 in the conference, 13-1 on the road, and 4-5 at neutral sites. The Lady Pirates got no respect even though they followed all the rules. This was their reward.

Hampton University finally had enough and exited the MEAC-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference for the Big South Conference with the Aggies of North Carolina A&T to follow two years later. In the next basketball season, both schools will join the Colonial Conference. Both schools do not have to worry about play in games if they do well in their conference.

In the last 20 years, there have been four victories by HBCUs in the Tournament. Hampton University upset Iowa in 2001; Florida A&M defeated Lehigh 72-57 in 2004; Norfolk State University upset Missouri in 2012. Last year Texas Southern, members of the SWAC- Southwestern Athletic Conference beat Mount St. Mary’s 60-52. The Tigers have won three of the last four play-in games, so why did they have to continue to be placed in this situation?.

The NCAA might be stating that an HBCU’s season is less than a Division One level. A Kansas, a University of North Carolina or a UCLA and that is being prejudged to all Black schools, nothing new but it must be exposed.   

It also happened again this year on the women’s side as the Jackson State (23-5) the Lady Tigers won 21 games in a row, yet their reward was a 14 seed and the LSU Tigers.  

What it all comes down to is the economics of the playoffs just ask the Mid-Majors. HBCU administrators are looking at a payday if their schools make the tournament. These administrators don’t care about the uneven playing field. Sports is a business to these administrators who don’t see the advantage of their sports teams getting recognized on the court and on television.

Teams get paid for making the tournament and for winning games while they are there. These payments are called units. The 2021 units were valued at $337,141 according to the NCAA. Usually, that number increases about 3% annually.

The value of the units in 2022 will be applied to units earned by conferences over the previous six tournaments. So basically, every time a team in the SWAC or MEAC has made the tournament or won a tournament game in the last six years the conference will get paid the unit value that’s designated for the current year.

There is a problem with this. Black schools only get one bite of the apple while Big (D-1) Schools might get three or four shots- ADD THAT UP!!!!! This year the Duke Blue Devils have four wins and counting ADD THAT UP!!!! The (ACC) Atlantic Coast Conference had three teams in the Sweet 16 this year Miami, the University of North Carolina, and Duke. The ACC had two in the final four. COME ON MAN!

Each conference in HBCU will receive one bid each male and female while the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, (SEC) Southeast Conference, or (ACC) Atlantic Coast Conference (The Five Families-The Five Majors) will get four or more teams, more money, more money, more money! Meanwhile, HBCU’s get shut out. The playing field on the court is currently lop-sided and needs to be corrected. 

Here is the problem the Jersey City team, St. Peter’s just got paid this year for next year’s athletic program not only in North Jersey but the (MAAC) Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference too. The Peacocks in the first round paid for the ladies and men’s basketball programs. In the second game, the Peacocks paid for all the athletic programs at St. Peter’s.

That means baseball, hockey, swimming, golf, gym, and lacrosse. The third game paid for the conference. This is what needs to change to help HBCUs, share the monies of the tournament. The Big 10, Pac-12, ACC, Big East, and SEC get multiple chances at that pie while HBCUs only get one. St. Peter’s will not have to go begging to fund next year’s sports programs because the basketball team just paid the bill with three victories.

The NCAA should have learned the lesson from Major League Baseball 90 years ago after the inception of the Negro Baseball League. The full and complete integration of MLB was accomplished in 1961 that included everybody. Then again maybe the NCAA really does not want Black schools to be a part of the dance. If HBCUs had full access to program funding they would sooner or later beat Division-One schools like UCLA, Duke, or Michigan.

It may be time to create and install a Black basketball tournament.

 Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad News Network,  Disabled Community Activist. Email at

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod

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